A team of researchers of the US Army “have developed an artificial intelligence and machine learning technique that produces a visible face image from a thermal image of a person’s face captured in low-light or nighttime conditions” – according to news widely circulating on the Web.
The claim is based on a peer-reviewed technical paper presented at the IEEE Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision, in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, called the “Thermal to Visible Synthesis of Face Images using Multiple Regions”, by a team of US Army Research Lab folks. According to the reports, “Army researchers demonstrated that combining global information, such as the features from the across the entire face, and local information, such as features from discriminative fiducial regions, for example, eyes, nose and mouth, enhanced the discriminability of the synthesized imagery. They showed how the thermal-to-visible mapped representations from both global and local regions in the thermal face signature could be used in conjunction to synthesize a refined visible face image”.
The goal of the research – according to the folks who invented it – is to reach “the ability to perform automatic face recognition at nighttime using such thermal cameras is beneficial for informing a soldier that an individual is someone of interest, like someone who may be on a watch list”.
The technology of Forward-Looking Infared (FLIR) is nothing new, as it had been used in its earnest even in the Vietnam War of the seventies – and currently there are handheld mobile devices that contain such embedded sensors.
Novelty is, however that building yet another biometric database started, this time based on the individual distinctiveness of the distribution of heat in the human body.
Of course there are no prime information regarding this particular technology yet, but it could be reasonably supposed that it will eventually find its way into more and more surveillance and military systems in the near future. According to some professional insiders, the system might also find uses in specialized infantry, as one author notes: “soldiers wearing individual FLIR cameras could use it to identify targets quickly and easily without compromising their positions – however, it also seems likely that the system could be housed on networked computers in a safe location, and rely on relayed footage from soldiers in the field to conduct the verification from a distance”.
Yet, a plexi will always conceal heat emissing targets, some say …