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Cia seeks to capture eye from distance { November 4 2003 }

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CIA Seeks to Capture Eye I.D. from a Distance
Tue November 04, 2003 05:01 PM ET

By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA is trying to improve facial recognition technology which can be notoriously inaccurate, and also develop ways to identify from a distance a target in motion by the iris of the person's eye, a CIA scientist said on Tuesday.

Differences in simple factors like lighting and expression can impede identification of someone using current facial recognition technology, said Andrew Kirby, senior physical scientist at CIA's Intelligence Technology and Innovation Center.

"Those differences are so significant that my own picture taken in two different places at two different times is actually more difficult to match than it would be to match me with someone in this audience," he said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum on biometrics.

Kirby said his program, which was created two years ago, has set a goal of improving face recognition technology "by a factor of 10."

Currently iris recognition technology is more reliable but requires a cooperative subject who will stand in front of the scanner and line up the eye properly, he said.

"We're looking at remote iris recognition," Kirby said. It would be more valuable if the iris could be captured by a camera while the person was in motion at a distance to make the identification, he said.

"One of the main thrusts of our program is in fact to make this possible," Kirby added.


The U.S. Army is using biometrics, which also includes the more commonly used identification tool of fingerprints, to build identity records for detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Kirby said.

Those records will be used to identify detainees who are released if they resurface to U.S. authorities in the future, he said.

Using biometrics can be important for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts, said John Woodward, director of the Pentagon's biometrics management office.

For example, with a large number of foreign locals working on military installations overseas, if that person is fired for some reason and goes to another base to get hired under a different identity, biometrics could help identify that person.

It could also be used to identify people who try to give false intelligence at one U.S. location and then try it again under a different identity at another, he said.

The goal for the future is to combine different biometrics "to give us the ability to make identification from a distance to a very accurate level," he said.

In 10 years, there will be handheld devices that "track the person's presence like a bloodhound," Tony Frudakis, chief scientific officer and founder of DNAPrint Genomics, said.

Barry Hodge, president of AcSys Biometrics Corp., said according to a recent study, the facial recognition biometric market worldwide is a $21.5 million business and is forecast to grow to $791.6 million by 2009.

"That's a huge growth rate, so obviously people are expecting a lot of excitement and things to be happening around the facial recognition marketplace," Hodge said.

Reproducing the ability of a person to recognize another in a computer is difficult, he said.

"You recognize them from the back, you recognize them from the side, in varying lighting conditions. When you see people you know, you just know them. And teaching a computer to do that is an amazingly difficult task," Hodge said.

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