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Lie detector technology tested by customs in Canada

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has been helping to test a new form of lie detector technology, intended to alert the authorities to travelers acting suspiciously. Known as the Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real Time (AVATAR), the system involves passengers entering a kiosk, facing a screen and answering a series of questions. Cameras and sensors then analyze the various reactions.

The questions typically range from, “Do you have any fruits and vegetables in your luggage?” to “Are you carrying any weapons with you?” Eye-detection software, motion and pressure sensors then monitor the passengers as they answer, looking for physiological signs of lying or discomfort. A series of innocuous questions to establish baseline measurements is asked first, so that anyone nervous about flying, for example, is not singled out.

Aaron Elkins, a San Diego State University management information systems professor and the inventor of AVATAR, explained the system at a recent press event. “AVATAR is a kiosk, much like an airport check-in or grocery store self-check-out kiosk. However, this kiosk has a face on the screen that asks questions of travelers and can spot changes in physiology and behavior during the interview. The system can detect changes in the eyes, voice, gestures and posture to determine potential risk. It can even tell when you’re curling your toes.”

Elkins, who is currently looking for government agencies willing to implement the technology, added, “AVATAR has been tested in labs, in airports and at border crossing stations. The system is fully ready for implementation to help stem the flow of criminals, thwart fleeing criminals, and detect potential terrorists and many other applications in the effort to secure international borders.”

Written by Chris Anderson

January 4, 2017


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