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    October 2009

    Technology and Innovation Development

    UNC Wilmington Researchers Study Facial Recognition Technology

    Image-UNCW Tech Transfer.jpg

    By Lindsay Key, Kim Proukou, Ron Vetter and Robert Roer 

    Karl Ricanek, associate professor of computer science and director of the Face Aging Group at UNC Wilmington, is an expert in face and age recognition. The Face Aging Group at UNCW began as a shared interest between Ricanek and two other faculty members – forensic anthropologist Midori Albert and computer scientist Eric Patterson.  Five years ago, these UNCW researchers began studying the effects of human aging on facial recognition systems for national security agencies like NSA and the CIA.

    In February 2009, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) designated UNCW as one of four universities to form a new Center for Academic Studies in Identity Sciences (CASIS), a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE). CASIS, funded by a $334,930 grant from ODNI, is a pilot project that will support the intelligence community with research results in the field of biometrics for facial recognition imaging.

    Ricanek and three other researchers will direct the new collaborative CAE: Marios Savvides from Carnegie Mellon University, Damon Woodard at Clemson University and Gerry Dozier of North Carolina A&T State University. The new center’s goal is to further research in the field of identity sciences by developing mathematical algorithms that will extend the capability of biometric identification. For UNCW, that involves algorithms to generate synthetic representations of a person over the full range of adulthood. These algorithms will compute how a person’s face might age in 10, 20 or 30 years – helping governmental agencies like the FBI and the Department of Defense to combat terrorism and to promote national and international security. As part of the project, the FBI recently funded Carnegie Mellon and UNCW researchers a total of $850,000 for a year’s worth of research into the development tools needed for forensic face identification. Overall, Ricanek estimates that the facial recognition program could bring in as much as $1 million in grants during the 2009-10 academic year.

    To support all of its efforts, the facial recognition program at UNCW has doubled in terms of faculty and student researchers and also external grant funding. The multidisciplinary research team now includes six faculty members, two research assistants, two post-doctoral fellows, three graduate students and five undergraduate students who specialize in different aspects of identity solutions: face recognition, iris recognition, age estimation and others. Their work in biometrics is cutting edge. From network security to identity theft to border control, predictability of identity across time offers the best hope for secure authentication of individual identity, and UNCW is leading the research that will deliver that security.

    For further information, please contact:

    Robert Roer, Ph.D.
    Dean of the Graduate School and Research
    Chief Research Officer
    Professor of Biology and Marine Biology
    University of North Carolina Wilmington
    (910) 962-4117