60-Second Tech

Eye Reflections Could Catch Crooks

Photos that include people now produce images clear enough to make a positive ID of any individuals whose faces are reflected in the corneas of the people in the picture. Larry Greenemeier reports

In the 1964 film Goldfinger, James Bond thwarts a would-be attacker approaching from behind after seeing the man’s reflection in the eyes of the woman he’s about to kiss. It was enough for Bond to know somebody was approaching. But now U.K. researchers want to fully identify individuals based on corneal reflections.

Rather than sneaking up on people, the researchers simply took high-res photos of their subjects’ faces. From those digital pictures, they zoomed in on the subjects’ eyes to examine images of bystanders reflected in the cornea.

Turns out those reflected images might indeed be useful for real-life crime fighting, according to the research, published in the journal PLoS One. [Rob Jenkins and Christie Kerr, Identifiable Images of Bystanders Extracted from Corneal Reflections]

The researchers found that volunteers could usually correctly match a person’s image in a fuzzy corneal reflection with a normal headshot of that same person.

Such data extraction could be useful for solving crimes in which hostages or abuse victims are photographed. In these cases, the victims’ eyes would essentially become mirrors, recording incriminating information about their captors. Q would have been impressed.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]


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