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 Virtual face-ageing may help find missing persons

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Date posted: 27/09/2006

Forensic imaging specialist Chris Solomon at Kent University in the UK has created software that artificially "ages" a person's face using their personal history, family traits and population trends.

Agencies involved in tracing missing persons routinely try to simulate ageing to predict the way a person will look many years after they have disappeared. But they must use artists who are given the most recent images of a person as well as pictures of that person's family.

This can take 20-40 hours per variation on a face produced, so the possibilities are very limited. Artificial aging software exists already, but this can provide only apply rough physical changes.

The system first converts a face into a set of numbers based on the location and size of each feature. It then uses a database of previously entered faces to calculate the transformations that need to be made. This database includes previous images of the person in question as well as photographs of their family members and other individuals.

"Most changes in people's faces are shared by the population as a whole," explains Solomon. "We've taken a large sample of faces and extracted the way they change over time, on average."

"The results are generally promising," says Solomon. "Although sometimes it doesn't age a face as much as you would expect." He says these issues are being ironed out.

"It may be useful," says Teri Blythe, who is head of identification and reconstruction at the UK's National Missing Person's Helpline. "There may be trends in how faces change that the software can pick up but a person can't." But Blythe believes the main benefit could be the ability to generate more artificially-aged faces from missing person files.

The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, an organisation based in the US, reports that seven out of 10 age-progression images help resolve a case, Blythe notes.

See the full Story via external site: www.newscientist.com



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