Manchester Metropolitan University

Tuesday, 28th January 2003

Intelligent lie-detector

Computing team get international plaudits

THEY say the face is a mirror of the soul but how to read it, there's the rub…

A new technique, which interprets facial gestures has been developed by scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University and could be the most accurate 'lie detector' yet discovered.

Dubbed 'Silent Talker' the system uses artificial intelligence to detect and analyse thousands of micro-gestures, many of which go unnoticed by the naked eye.

The method has demonstrated significantly better results than the traditional polygraph lie detectors used by the CIA and is much simpler to use, needing no experts to operate it and no physical contact with the suspect.

Banks and insurance companies have already expressed interest in the system, which has manifold applications from job interviews and police investigations to airport security and counter-terrorism. It also has applications in medicine and could aid the diagnosis and monitoring of depressions, schizophrenia and psychopathy.

Project director Dr Zuhair Bandar in the University's Department of Computing and Mathematics said: "We have looked at systems across the world and are convinced that this is the most sophisticated*.

"A breakthrough in the UK is all the more significant given the large budgets made available for security in the USA post September 11."

The Manchester system, which can read stress, deception, tiredness and other traits, analyses non-verbal behaviour, which make up 93% of all human communication. Movements, however tiny, of muscles, eyebrows, eyes etc are continuous, involuntary and unintended and are considered impossible to fake. Operated by just a laptop and a camera, Silent Talker registers mismatches and incongruities between microgestures - variables that are virtually impossible for humans to analyse.

In phased tests to date, the system is accurate in over 80% of cases, compared to 70% for the best other current systems.

In one test, researchers asked volunteers to steal £10 each from a box and asked them to deny knowledge of the theft when later questioned. To compare the different reactions, another group who had seen but not stolen the money, was also quizzed about the missing money. During questioning, a secret camera filmed the interviewees faces. It correctly identified the liars in 80% of cases.

Dr Janet Rothwell, lead researcher on Silent Talker said: "Silent Talker is producing superior results and is fast, cheap, non invasive, unbiased and works virtually in real time.

"Statistically it has greater potential but the current results are good enough to aid in many situations, to change a line of questioning, to re-interview someone and such things. For example the Yorkshire Ripper was interviewed at least five times. I'd like to think that wouldn't happen with Silent Talker around.

The team is currently working with psychologists from MMU and the University of Liverpool, and has secured a patent application for its system.


*Earlier this year, a Minnesota team unveiled a lie detector which uses thermal imaging but the MMU team say looking a one 'channel' (ie heat behind the eyes) is too simplistic and unreliable.

For further details/interviews contact Dr Zuhair Bandar on 0161 247 1541 07751 825422, Mr Jim O'Shea on 0161 247 1546 or Dr Janet Rothwell on 0161 247 1492

Manchester Metropolitan University is one of the most extensive higher education centres in Europe with 37,000 students and more than 1,000 undergraduate, postgraduate and professional courses. The University educates and trains large numbers of legal and business professionals, scientists, engineers, teachers, health workers and creative professionals.

The University is in the top three nationally for environmental sustainability and has an 85% research impact rated world-leading and internationally excellent.

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