Wednesday, May 8, 2013

CyLab's Marios Savvides Appears on CNN in Wake of Boston Marathon Bombing Investigation

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation, there has been some mainstream news media attention paid to facial recognition software. After years of NCIS and other law enforcement TV dramas, there is some popular expectation that such technology could have led to a speedier conclusion to the manhunt, or perhaps even have prevented the savage attack.

Looking for meaningful answers, CNN turned to Marios Savvides, Carnegie Mellon University Associate Professor and Director of the CyLab Biometrics Center, a leading expert in the field.

Here is a video excerpt, followed by a transcript of the news story:

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "When the FBI released these photos during the search for the Boston suspects, there was hope that computers might help as they do on shows like CSI, comparing facial features with existing data and coming up with a name. But even though pictures of both brothers were in public databases, the computers that searched that data missed them, and came up empty. The government has been working on facial identification software since the 1960s, and companies like Facebook and Apple use similar technology to tag people in photos. But security analysts widely admit this technology is not good enough to spot a suspect in the crowd. At Carnegie Melon, Mario Savvides runs the CyLab Biometric Center.

MARIOS SAVVIDES, DIRECTOR, CMU CYLAB BIOMETRICS CENTER: While the toughest problems is low resolution, when you look at images collected from (inaudible) TV footage, the faces are way too small.

FOREMAN: His team is developing next generation software to change poor and partial images into much clearer pictures. They are creating programs that can reliably match images of people to their true identities, despite low light, movement, odd positions.

SAVVIDES: Off-angle is a big challenge. How do you match an off- angle image that`s say 50 degrees, 60 degrees, 45 degrees off angle to a face that`s just a frontal sort of, you know, passport-type photo.

FOREMAN: They`re even transforming flat pictures into 3D, look at what their lab did with a single photo of me. In less than an hour it was turned into a series of images showing how I might look from above, from the left, from the right. Savvides believes such programs can and will substantially improve the reliability of facial recognition and lead police to suspects much faster.

SAVVIDES: And ultimately, hopefully save life, because that`s our aim, that`s our goal, that`s everything we do here.

FOREMAN: For now, the FBI is installing its latest version of facial identification software to work with security cameras coast to coast as part of the billion-dollar program called "next generation identification." Still, in Boston, it wasn`t technology, but human investigators who triumphed. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

CNN, 5-7-13

-- Richard Power