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Photonics-Enabled Tools for Forensic Investigations to be Advanced at SPIE DSS

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA (PRWEB) April 17, 2013

Forensic investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this week utilized numerous photonics technologies that play central roles in finding answers after such incidents as well as in helping to prevent others. Digital video imaging and data management, facial recognition technologies, and optical and photonics methods of chemical detection are among several such topics to be presented at SPIE Defense, Security and Sensing (DSS) symposium opening in Baltimore on 29 April.

Tools for matching face imagery acquired from video or still cameras with face-recognition databases is one example. Optical imaging technologies also enable identifying suspects by their gait caught on camera, and can calculate a suspect's pulse emotional state – an indicator of stress such as anticipating a bold action. Explosives can be identified from as much as 100 meters away.

Stephen DelMarco, Senior Principal Research Engineer at BAE Systems, will be presenting developments in fusion techniques still in the research stage that will make storing and transmitting facial images much more efficient. His system employs multichannel image fusion for 3-D color face imagery, offering a big step up from previous matching systems.

"Now you can exploit multiple channels -- for example, red, green and blue color channels, along with depth information that give you better image recognition," Dr. DelMarco said. "In the old days, you had a single channel; a gray-scale image to process, which provided less information."

One benefit will be image compression for transmission of images captured by color cameras over wireless devices or for storage on disk drives. The reduced size of compressed images offers the same image quality but in a much smaller space, allowing transmission over limited-bandwidth channels and reducing transmission costs.

Sos Agaian, Peter T. Flawn Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio, noted that investigators in Boston will benefit from the ability to integrate and enhance information from many kinds of mobile devices.

"Visually, when you enhance the image you can see things that at first you didn't see," Dr. Agaian said. “If you have several cellphone images, you can integrate them all into a huge panorama of the scene of an event. And you can make faces and actions more recognizable.”

Agaian's lab can calculate pulse rate by a facial recording with a camera, and compare calculations over time to detect changes that actions do not show. When the heart starts to beat faster, he said, “it suggests something is going on that's having an emotional effect.”

Agaian will chair the Mobile Multimedia/Image Processing, Security and Applications conference at DSS.

Christopher Carter, program manager at the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University, anticipated that forensic teams in Boston might use optical techniques to check samples for explosives and other chemicals, whether at long distances or close up. An example is Raman scattering which provides a "fingerprint" of the molecules to be identified.

"Raman spectroscopy is being used by both military and civilian agencies to identify bulk chemicals," Dr. Carter said. "You'd use a laser to look at the Raman scattered light, from a few centimeters away, and detect precisely what is there. Other active optical techniques can identify explosives from up to 100 meters away."

Carter will chair sessions on Advances in Spectroscopic Chemical Detection, in the DSS conference on Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Sensing.

The search for better ways to detect explosive devices in advance of an event is ongoing, noted Augustus Way Fountain, the Senior Research Scientist for Chemistry in the Research and Technology Directorate, U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, and chair of the CBRNE conference. He also serves as an at-large U.S. representative to the NATO Sensors & Electronics Technology Panel, advising them on CBRNE detection.

"The Holy Grail of bulk or trace explosives detection remains elusive to both military and homeland defense agencies," he said. "There are a number of research and development efforts across agencies working to detect persons or vehicles containing an explosive device before it is detonated; many of these rely on photonics-based technologies."

SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing conferences run 28 April through 3 May. A free-admission exhibition featuring 500 industry suppliers runs 30April through May.

Read more about these technologies in the SPIE Newsroom feature.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 225,000 constituents from approximately 150 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional growth, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2012.

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