Did you know that human eyes pose some incredibly cool crime-solving possibilities?
Today’s eye-related forensic technology can strike the average person as something out of a futuristic sci-fi fantasy or James Bond movie, but it’s actually better understood as the stuff of the true crime genre.
Advancements in iris recognition technology
Most people have been introduced to iris recognition technology (where the iris is scanned and electronically “read”) through films that feature it as a component of high-tech, top-security access to restricted areas. While this technology has been around for nearly thirty years, it has been largely limited to government or military use, though this technology is branching out into the private sector (as in financial services) and into police work.
Because each iris is as unique as each person’s fingerprints, iris recognition technology offers some intriguing possibilities that go well beyond granting access to otherwise restricted areas.
Researcher Marios Savvides of Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab reports, “We are working on extracting iris features from high resolution visible photos and matching them against other high resolution photos of irises, which is an exciting finding.”
The implications of this finding for broader forensic use are that the technology exists for “identity verification at a distance.” Explains Savvides, “We have demonstrated capturing an iris from a person in a stopped vehicle to depict the scenario where a police officer could identify the driver before approaching [them].” Savvides continues, “Iris recognition and in particular long-range iris recognition can [also] help identify victims of human trafficking or abduction and alert authorities.”
A clue in the eye of the beholder
In childhood, we discover that the surface of the eye is mirror-like when we first recognize that we can see our miniature reflection in the eye of another person.
Research from the Department of Psychology at the University of York demonstrates that this phenomenon could literally provide clues to criminal cases as used by law enforcement authorities and forensic scientists. The study, titled Identifiable Images of Bystanders Extracted from Corneal Reflections, demonstrated that an accurately identifiable image of a photographer could be seen as reflected in the eyes of people being photographed.
“The pupil of the eye is like a black mirror,” explains Dr. Rob Jenkins, director of the study. “To enhance the image, you have to zoom in and adjust the contrast. A face image that is recovered from a reflection in the subject’s eye is about 30,000 times smaller than the subject’s face.”
Jenkins continues, “In the context of criminal investigations, this could be used to piece together networks of associates, or to link individuals to particular locations. This may be especially important when for categories of crime in which perpetrators photograph their victims. Reflections in the victims’ eyes could reveal the identity of the photographer.”
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