Guilt detection

Researchers are looking to increase security at border controls by developing a computer system that can detect guilt.

Researchers are looking to increase security at border control points by developing a computer system that can detect guilt.

Dr Hassan Ugail, head of visual computing research at Bradford University’s School of Informatics, is part of a team working on a £500,000 project to develop a system that would assist border control agencies in identifying people trying to smuggle contraband goods or narcotics through customs.

The project, which starts in December 2008 and will last more than two years, also involves Dr Reyer Zwiggelaar from Aberystwyth University. The research team will also collaborate closely with the Home Office, HM Revenue & Customs and QinetiQ.

The researchers hope to build a system based on real-time dynamic passive profiling. In use, it would capture facial expressions, eye movement and pupil changes that would then be analysed by computer-based intelligent algorithms to determine malicious intent.

However, since some smugglers can be good actors who can easily hide their emotions, the researchers also plan to capture thermal images of individuals and determine whether facial blood flow, which is hard to control, could also be used as a parameter in the profiling system.

Ugail said: ‘Trained officers at the border control points are very good at spotting people carrying contraband by simply analysing their facial expressions in response to questions, but it is tricky to teach a machine to do this.’

If successful, the system could have potential far beyond border control applications. It might, for example, be used in police interrogations and interviews as well.

The research is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).