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TCTI: Too Crazy To Ignore

Dave Ross

The better to see you with, Mr. Bad guy

Face recognition programs can quickly organize your photo collection, but picking out faces from a real-time video - not so easy. (AP Photo/File)

Cameras are everywhere now. The question is, when it comes to identifying bad guys for purposes of preventing terrorism, who's going to watch all that video?

Ideally, machines would watch it - machines able to recognize faces using something called "biometric optical surveillance system technology."

Geoff Harvey is a spokesman at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Kennewick, Washington, which tested the technology at a local arena parking lot, outdoors.

According to Harvey, they hired volunteers to participate in and they didn't use any public individuals.

These 30 hired volunteers milled around in the parking lot as two "robotic cameras" with infrared and distance sensors took video from various angles, in sunlight and shade, while a computer attempted to match the videos in real-time to mug shots stored in a database.

But as Harvey told KONA radio, the lab discovered, "We took the photos outdoors in a variety of different ways and we found there is a lot of work that needs to be done before we deploy this kind of technology for facial recognition."

It didn't work. At least not the way it was supposed to.

Face recognition programs can quickly organize your photo collection, but picking out faces from a real-time video is not so easy.

So, if you're one of those worried about the ever-expanding scope of government surveillance, there's one less thing to worry about for now.

And even if they do make it work, there are always Groucho glasses.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

Tune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

  • Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FMTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

About the Author


Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.

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