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AI tracks how long politicians spend on their phones during meetings

Flemish politicians on their phones (Picture: @FlemishScroller)

Caption: Flemish politicians on their phones (Picture: @FlemishScroller)
Provider: @FlemishScroller

In Belgium, the meetings of the Flemish government are all livestreamed on YouTube for anyone to watch.

But if you’ve ever seen or sat through a government committee meeting, you’ll know they’re not the most exciting events ever conceived.

Which is probably why a lot of attendees will subtly, and not so subtly, spend time on their smartphones rather than paying attention.

Dries Depoorter, a Belgium artist, decided to use artificial intelligence (AI), to track how much of the meetings the politicians are spending on their phone.

The software uses image recognition to start scanning for phones once the livestream starts. From there, the AI employs facial recognition to tell which politician is shunning the meeting in favour of phone time.

But Depoorter goes even further. He set up an automated Twitter account to publicly call out the offending politicians for not paying attention.

The account tweets the attendee in question along with a clip of them checking their phone during a meeting.

The responses to the project have varied with some praising and others critcising it.

‘Can anyone see how wrong and misleading this is? And btw, is it even legal?’ responded one Twitter user.

Another wrote: ‘This is the greatest thing ever.’

Finally, one other user suggested: ‘Interesting, but they might be more productive on their phones than during this meeting.’

While many of us have likely checked our phones a bit more than necessary during a work meeting – at least we haven’t (in most cases) had security cameras broadcasting it live over the internet.

So perhaps spare a thought for the Belgium politicians. And then think what this would look like if we tried it in the UK.


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