In short: One Nest Hello Doorbell unit mistakened its owner for Batman and consequently locked his house door as he was about to enter. As reported by one B.J. May earlier this week, his gadget was seemingly confused by the fact he was wearing a Batman T-shirt and instead of scanning his face, its facial recognition algorithms ended up focusing on the said piece of clothing. A screenshot of the authentication log proving the affair took place can be seen below. Mr. May said he found the episode funny and didn’t think of it as inconvenient given how he simply used his PIN to disengage the Nest x Yale lock after initially being denied entry to his home.
Background: Launched earlier this year, the Nest Hello Doorbell is the first such product from Google’s recently reabsorbed subsidiary which is meant to additionally diversify the company’s smart home portfolio. The gadget offers many advanced functionalities but having it automatically lock unlocked doors when approached by a stranger is not a native feature and can instead only be activated using third-party services. The same trigger cannot be used for disengaging any lock, presumably because consumer-grade biometrics solutions are still relatively easy to spoof. Facial recognition is still widely touted as one of the product’s main selling points, together with its ease of use and installation.
Impact: With the episode described above being attributed to a facial recognition fail, it’s unlikely to affect Nest’s future product strategy, especially given how the programmed behavior that causes the Nest Hello Doorbell to lock the door when it sees a stranger has been manually enabled by Mr. May using IFTTT protocols. The potential for such a setup to behave in unintended ways apparently remains too great for any electronics manufacturer to consider implementing such solutions as the default behavior of their smart lock products.
— B.J. May (@bjmay) September 17, 2018