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"Science fiction operates a little bit like science itself, in principle. You've got thousands of people exploring ideas, putting forth their own hypotheses. Most of them are dead wrong; a few stand the test of time; everything looks kind of quaint in hind"
- Peter Watts

Automated Sentry  
  A biometric device that scans facial features for identification.  

At this point in the novel, many people fear contagion. For this reason, machines that make use of face recognition biometrics are used in place of human beings; the automated sentry is a biometric identification system. Ironically, face recognition is probably the oldest means that humans have of recognizing each other.

The guard box stood empty. Something small and white moved back and forth behind smoked glass windows. A long steel tube jutted from the side. He used a handkerchief to wipe sweat from his cheeks and for head. The sweat was not just from the heat. He did not like this new role. He did not like secrets.

In particular, he did not like stepping into the belly of the beast.

Turner followed his gaze. "Nobody home," he said. "We still use people at the main gates, but here it's an automated sentry." Dakin caught a glimpse of a grid of purple beams scooting over Turner's face, then his own.

A green light glowed beside the gate.

"You are who we say you are, Dr. Dakin," Turner said.

From Darwin's Children, by Greg Bear.
Published by Del Rey in 2003
Additional resources -

This is one of many places in the book where machines are used to sense danger. In a way, the automated Sentry is an analogy to the biological laboratory devices used in the story. The fact that "normal" people use mechanical devices to sense what other people are, and where danger is, forms an interesting counterpoint to the "virus children", who use their own capabilities to judge others.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Darwin's Children
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