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Lie-detecting camera tracks facial blood flow

Hassan Ugail of Britain's Bradford University is developing a thermal camera that can often tell when people are lying.

Hassan Ugail of Bradford University says the system may be ready in 10 to 12 months. Hassan Ugail

A camera system under development in Britain can detect when people are lying in roughly two-thirds of cases, and could become a powerful new security tool, researchers say.

Hassan Ugail of Bradford University worked with colleagues at Aberystwyth University and the U.K. Border Agency to develop a camera that picks up on changes in blood flow and expression in a subject's face when lying.

Shown off this week at the British Science Festival in Bradford, the system picks up on emotional signs linked to lying such as eye movements and heavy breathing as well as more subtle cues such as swollen blood vessels around the eyes.

The system combines a commercial video camera, a thermal camera, and algorithms to process the data that run on a laptop.

Ugail believes the system can be improved so that it catches 90 percent of liars, a success rate comparable to that of a polygraph; a 2003 National Academy of Sciences report concluded polygraphs have an 85 percent overall accuracy rate.

"The next stage of our research is to test our technology in real-life scenarios in order to collect more data so that we can fine-tune our system for accuracy," Ugail says. "If all goes well we anticipate the system can be practical in 10 to 12 months."

The system is to be deployed this year, likely for security interviews, at a U.K. airport, where its analysis will be compared to those of security officers.

As if the airport experience wasn't stressful enough already.

(Via BBC News)