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Detecting a Crime Before It Happens

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airport check-in line

Sensors will scan travelers to look for non-verbal cues such as changes in facial expression that may indicate hostile intent.

Credit: Roger L. Wollenberg / UPI Photo

U.S. government scientists at the Homeland Security Advanced Research Project Agency are immersed in research to see whether various high-tech devices can be exploited to spot nonverbal cues from people with malicious intent in the hope of preventing crimes. The researchers have connected high-resolution cameras, low-level lasers, and other devices to measure fidgeting, heart rate, pupil dilation, skin temperature, and other cues. The sensors would record key data as each traveler moved down a security line, and a computer algorithm would then analyze any changes triggered by a guard's questions and raise an alert if necessary.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security's human factors branch has spent close to $20 million on experimentation with micro-expressions, or rapid facial muscle twitches, that may or may not signal hostile intent. There is a clear need for improvement, as demonstrated by Homeland Security screeners' failure to detect travelers who were later connected to failed terrorist plots in New York and Virginia, jihadist training in Pakistan, and deadly incidents in Afghanistan, India, and Somalia, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

From The Los Angeles Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2010 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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