One of the most frequently cited statistics regarding firearm ownership is that you’re more likely to be killed by a gun in your home. A new smart gun from a company called Biofire Tech promises to drop that percentage by including a feature not seen in your everyday 9mm semiautomatic. Facial recognition.
In a move worthy of Judge Dredd, the company’s handgun won’t fire unless it recognises the person holding it. That alone is enough to make the weapon safer, though not entirely safe. There’s still the threat of violence by the person actually programmed to use it but at least a kid won’t accidentally fire the weapon. It’s also unlikely to be used by a home invader.
How smart is a smart gun?
Provided, that is, it works as advertised. Biofire’s smart gun (which is just called the Smart Gun) ships with a dock that is used to program in the face (or faces) of those certified for use with the weapon. The entire design is futuristic, with a custom polymer finish available to those who pre-order the weapon. Even the hand you hold the weapon with can be customised, while facial recognition should function no matter which way you wield it.
And that’s the tricky bit. A smart weapon that relies on facial biometrics might not work in a crucial moment, especially since lighting could be a factor. This can be compensated for by setting up fingerprint ‘login’ for the weapon, an option that also ramps up security for the 9mm handgun. The facial recognition sensor uses a 3D infrared system, which should work in the dark, but Reuters points out that it saw (a prototype version of) the gun fail on a couple of occasions.
But there’s also one other potential issue — having a rechargeable battery in your weapon. It’s one thing to use it for home defence but if you forgot to charge it after you came home from the shooting range and needed it that night… well, that just wouldn’t be cool. And in a country plastered with stage 6 load shedding warnings… well, the idea of a rechargeable gun just creates a whole modicum of new issues.
Still… a smart gun, featuring integrated laser sights, facial and fingerprint access, and a polymer finish that lobs 9x19mm Parabellum rounds at a target is going to appeal to several different kinds of gun owner. The weapon is on sale now, with the customisable Launch Edition costing about R35,000. The standard version is slightly more affordable at R27,500 ($1,500). The earlier versions of the weapon are expected to ship by year-end, with the standard edition coming in 2024.