UNL study aims to see if people can be identified from far away by body movements

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor is leading a research program to stretch the limits of what’s possible when it comes to identifying people from long distances.

“What we’re looking at is just trying to push the frontier in terms of public safety,” said electrical and computer engineering professor Benjamin Riggan.

This week, Riggan and his team of graduate students are setting up towers to hang cameras from at the Havelock Research Farm.

Because images get distorted when they are taken from far away, Riggan and his team are looking to see if they can identify people using other characteristics, like their mannerisms.

“We would call that gait: how the person moves and behaves,” Riggan said.

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Map of Havelock Farm: Leftmost red dot indicates where farthest tower will be. Participants will line up at rightmost red dot. In total, three towers will be built, and a drone will be flown for the research project. (Source: Benjamin Riggan)

“It’s got a lot of potential in military uses,” UNL engineering grad student Ryan Karl said. “It’s also got some civilian uses, maybe tracking criminals, from far away distances.”

Riggan acknowledges that a study like this could raise concerns about privacy.

“We’re interested in developing this technology for the purposes of public safety, and making sure that we can maintain a certain level of privacy while also providing certain benefits to society,” he said.

UNL may receive up to $1 million for this research.

Riggan said he would consider it a success just to understand the effects of atmospheric turbulence on images taken from afar and how to overcome it.

“What is the state of the art in terms of this type of data?” Riggan said. “We’re definitely not there, but we’re trying to push as far as we can.”

Appointments for this study are available from July 16 to July 29. People who volunteer will receive $100 in the form of a gift card.

Participants will asked to do basic activities like standing, walking at a normal pace and turning in a circle.

If you would like to learn more, you can visit this link.

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