The greatness of gait

Ministry of Silly Walks Monty Python

People have been interested in gait since the time of Aristotle. I think it’s one of the most vivid aspects of human individuality. Like snowflakes, no two gaits are alike.

Some people stride from point A to point B. Others trudge. You can also amble, bimble, bounce, clump, falter, gimp, glide, hike, hobble, limp, lumber, lurch, march, mince, mosey, nip, pace, parade, perambulate, peregrinate, plod, pound, power walk, prance, promenade, pussyfoot, ramble, roam, sashay, saunter, scuff, shamble, shuffle, stagger, stalk, step, stomp, stroll, strut, stumble, stump, swagger, tiptoe, toddle, totter, traipse, tramp, trample, traverse, tread, trip, tromp, troop, trot, waddle, and wander. And these are just categories of walking. Each individual has a unique locomotive signature, which is always more complex and distinctive than any of the above words can capture.

Gait should be recognized as a seamless part of one’s personality. For example, I am constantly told that I walk too fast. Criticism is important to me, so I considered this carefully for many years. Finally, I came to the conclusion that the rest of the world walks too slow.

Forensic gait analysis is used by law enforcement to identify criminals on surveillance videos when their faces are obscured. If only the government had the technology to accurately record and identify each person’s gait, then it would be much easier to track everyone.

Wait, did someone say “track everyone”?

China’s on it:

Chinese authorities have begun deploying a new surveillance tool: “gait recognition” software that uses people’s body shapes and how they walk to identify them, even when their faces are hidden from cameras.

Already used by police on the streets of Beijing and Shanghai, “gait recognition” is part of a push across China to develop artificial-intelligence and data-driven surveillance that is raising concern about how far the technology will go.

Huang Yongzhen, the CEO of Watrix, said that its system can identify people from up to 50 meters (165 feet) away, even with their back turned or face covered. This can fill a gap in facial recognition, which needs close-up, high-resolution images of a person’s face to work.

“You don’t need people’s cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity,” Huang said in an interview in his Beijing office. “Gait analysis can’t be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet or hunching over, because we’re analyzing all the features of an entire body.”

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