Saying 'Cheese' for More Effective Border Security

Nov 25, 2008
A graphical overlay can improve the quality of facial images obtained by facial recognition systems. Credit: NIST

Facial recognition systems perform some very challenging tasks such as checking an individual’s photo against a database of known or suspected criminals. The task can become nearly impossible when the systems acquire poor facial images—a situation that occurs all too often in real-world environments. Now, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have found that several simple steps can significantly improve the quality of facial images that are acquired at border entry points such as airports and seaports.

Better yet, the NIST recommendations for improving facial images can be implemented relatively easily with existing facial recognition technology.

Travelers entering the United States have their pictures taken and their fingerprints collected digitally as part of the US-VISIT program implemented by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). US-VISIT and NIST work together on an ongoing basis to improve processes and technology. A 2007 NIST study of facial images collected at border entry points, however, found that the captured facial images were not as clear and useful for automated recognition as they could be.

In usability and human factors research performed for US-VISIT as part of a large joint effort to improve facial recognition technology, NIST’s Mary Theofanos and her colleagues sought simple ways of obtaining better facial images in often hectic real-world conditions without having to deploy new technology. The NIST researchers first visited and observed a DHS border entry point at Dulles Airport in the Washington, D.C. area to see the facial-image capturing process.

As a result of these observations, the researchers identified and shared with US-VISIT a number of steps to take for acquiring better facial images. For example, the report recommends that operators should adjust camera settings to ensure the subject comes into sharp focus. The report also recommends using a traditional-looking camera in facial-recognition systems so that individuals could clearly recognize the camera and look into it.

Following the Dulles site visit, a study adopted these steps in taking facial images of 300 participants while mimicking the real-world conditions of a border entry point. In these tests, 100 percent of the images fully captured the participant's face; all of the participants faced the camera; and the researchers found additional improvements by using a graphical overlay to the camera display in order to better position the camera.

The researchers believe these steps will improve the performance of facial recognition systems in real-world settings using existing technology. A follow-up study is underway in which the researchers are incorporating the graphical overlay into the workflow of camera operators.

Report: M. Theofanos, B. Stanton, C. Sheppard, R. Micheals, J. Libert and S. Orandi. Assessing Face Acquisition. NIST Interagency Report (NISTIR) 7540, Sept. 2008. zing.ncsl.nist.gov/biousa/docs/face_IR-7540.pdf

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Explore further: 3D printing is so last year: We're onto 4D printing now

Related Stories

SHORE facial analysis spots emotions on Google Glass

Aug 28, 2014

One of the key concerns about facial recognition software has been over privacy. The very idea of having tracking mechanisms as part of an Internet-connected wearable would be likely to upset many privacy ...

Intel brings out the avatar in you with new app

Jun 20, 2014

Intel on Thursday announced Pocket Avatars, a messaging app that will allow you to send messages through video avatars. The app is available for free download in Google Play and App store in the United St ...

Recommended for you

Team develops faster, higher quality 3-D camera

5 hours ago

When Microsoft released the Kinect for Xbox in November 2010, it transformed the video game industry. The most inexpensive 3-D camera to date, the Kinect bypassed the need for joysticks and controllers by ...

Researchers finding applications for tough spinel ceramic

15 hours ago

Imagine a glass window that's tough like armor, a camera lens that doesn't get scratched in a sand storm, or a smart phone that doesn't break when dropped. Except it's not glass, it's a special ceramic called ...

Classroom acoustics for architects

Apr 23, 2015

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) has published a free online booklet for architects to aid in the application of ANSI/ASA S12.60-2010/Part 1-American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, ...

JRC wins competition on indoor localization

Apr 23, 2015

A team of JRC researchers outperformed 27 teams from academia and industry across the globe and achieved best overall result at a competition on indoor localisation in Seattle, USA. Providing accurate position ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.