Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mind-reading : A New Chapter of Technology

'Mind-reading' body scanner uses sensors to tell if a person has harmful intentions; could thwart terrorist attacks, and speed up security checks.

The Department of Homeland Security in the US is testing a body scanner for its efficacy in reading people's mind - an approach that can make it easy to nail terrorists who can wreak havoc.

The new system could be set up at entrances to stadiums, malls and in airports to make it very difficult for terrorists to carry out attacks. The technology could also speed up entry routes at checkpoints.

How it works:

As people walk through the scanner, called MALINTENT, sensors measure their body temperature, heart rate and respiration. The system uses this data to predict whether the person has plans to harm those around him.

The sensors do not even require any physical contact to carry out such tests - a reason why the system is also being hailed as an "X-ray for bad intentions".

The researchers are also incorporating micro facial scanning in the technology, which measures minute muscle movements in the face for clues to mood and intention.

The system recognizes, defines and measures seven primary emotions and emotional cues reflected in the contraction of facial muscles.

If the sensors identify that something is amiss, MALINTENT transmits the warning data to analysts, who then decide whether to flag passengers for further questioning.

The researchers recently conducted a field test: While the 144 test subjects thought they were merely passing through an entrance-way, they actually walked through a series of sensors that screened them for bad intentions.

The boffins also selected a group of 23 attendees to be civilian "accomplices" in their test.

Each of these participants was given a "disruptive device" to carry through the portal. Unlike the other attendees, they were conscious of being on a mission.

While the results of the experiment were not disclosed, the scientists called it a resounding success.

Fast Passage:

The entire security array - from scanners to screeners - is called Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) because it is designed to get passengers through security in two to four minutes, and often faster, the scientists said.

It also meets rigorous safety standards to ensure that the screening would not cause any physical or emotional harm.

As for errors, experts working on the project insist that even if a person sweats heavily by nature, the system is smart enough not to mistake him for one with criminal intentions.

MALINTENT addresses privacy concerns as well, by deleting all data regarding a person examined after the test.

Your data is dumped. The information is not maintained - it does not track who you are.

In the future, FAST may also incorporate biological, radiological and explosive detection. But the primary focus is still on identifying and isolating potential human threats, said the researchers.

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