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Artificial intelligence scans for weapons, but faces criticism from some

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Posted at 11:28 AM, Jun 03, 2022

WALTHAM, Mass. — After three mass shootings in as many weeks, many Americans are left with a sense of numbness about what to do next. Away from the debate about gun control though, are people like Mike Ellenbogen, who are hoping to change the current status quo.

Ellenbogen is the founder of a company called Evolv. Inside the company's Waltham, Massachusetts headquarters, he walked us through how his company's next-generation security scanners work.

With a gun in his pocket, Mike walks through the scanning system. In addition to alarms going off, the system uses artificial intelligence to pinpoint where on his body the weapon is located.

Four cameras then send a real-time image to a nearby computer tablet that would be monitored by security officials at a venue or school which has installed the scanners.

From pipe bombs to knives, to IEDs, the scanners can detect a range of weapons and explosives. The scanners are already in place inside various schools and large venues across the country.

"School shootings can be prevented, we don't have to say this is the new normal and we don't have to accept it," Ellenbogen said.

The scanners can screen about 3,600 people per hour. But this deployment of this technology is garnering plenty of criticism from privacy advocates, including Jay Stanley from the ACLU.

"This is a slow decline to a checkpoint society," Stanley said in a recent interview via Zoom.

He is worried that weapons scanning systems with artificial intelligence will only infringe on Americans' privacy rights.

"We don't want to see America turned into a big airport," he added.

In the last few months, Evolv AI scanners have screened 51 million people. And, according to the company, detected more than 11,000 firearms. Statistics that Ellenbogen says only add to the need to do something.

"What we need to do as a country is move from debate ... to some form of action."