Thursday, January 20, 2005

Bonding Tsunami Victims with Facial Recognition

Ushering in 2005 was an unforgettable experience to Edwin Yang and his colleagues. After Phuket of Thailand was ravaged by the tsunami, they went to local hospitals and temples to take images of the bodies or surviving victims.

For those four days, the director of Regal Cyber in Hong Kong and his team managed to capture some three hundreds images. And combined with the contribution of database from the International Victim Coordination Center at Phuket, the company established a facial recognition web site to assist families in searching for their missing members in the catastrophe.

The web site, www.PeopleMatch.rc.tv, was set up on December 31st, 2004. It allows relatives to upload a photograph of their missing friends or family. The images will then be checked against a growing database of the faces of surviving or dead victims.

The PeopleMatch system has the ability to place up to 1,700 unique characteristics for an individual face in its database. It will then match these points with similar points from an uploaded facial photo. Upon verification, the system will call up a set of photos that matches the victim.

Due to the factors such as facial injuries, as long as reaching to a recognition rate of 65 percent, the web site will notify the respective families immediately, Yang told A&S.

He informed that four matches were successfully done in the first week of January. And the database has collected up to 1,300 facial images just within the first few days after the Internet set-up.

In addition to setting up the PeopleMatch’s platform, Regal Cyber partnered with local distributors of Viisage and Cognitec in Hong Kong. The two companies supplied facial recognition solutions for free for back-end systems.

“In this case, facial recognition is the most convenient tool to help the sufferers. It is a much faster alternative than DNA or tooth identification,” he stated. And indeed, the biometric technology has offered hope in the natural disaster.

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