About Face

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College of Engineering professor Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb’s research in facial recognition technology could help tighten worldwide security.

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From Movies to Reality
A drug trafficker attempting to enter the United States is identified and apprehended as soon as he arrives at the airport, thanks to a state-of-the-art scanner that photographs him and compares his image to a database of known criminals. Currently, such a scenario is still the stuff of Hollywood movies. Soon, however, the superbly accurate use of biometrics—identifying people by unique characteristics such as irises and facial features—will move beyond the realm of popular culture and into reality.

Historically, three-dimensional facial recognition technology has been expensive and somewhat unreliable. Recently, however, University of Miami College of Engineering professor Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb and his research team have developed ways to make biometric modeling more accurate by combining several techniques—while the team’s use of off-the-shelf cameras, rather than pricier specialized devices, makes the technology more affordable.

Multidimensional Possibilities
Under lab conditions, Abdel-Mottaleb’s multinodal 3-D facial recognition technique yielded a 99 percent accuracy rate. Not only could such high-tech identification tools help win the war on terror, fight crime, and enforce border security, they may offer various household applications and even help evaluate neurological disorders such as autism.

Abdel-Mottaleb describes his research as “satisfying, especially when you know that what you’re doing has real-world applications that will benefit people and enhance personal security.”

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