The nose knows! – We already have iris and fingerprint scanning to determine I.D., but nose scanning could work even better, and it might make it quicker to get through that security line at the airport. Or what if you had an “app” on your smart phone that let you point a it at a stranger and learn about them. And new research may have made fingerprinting criminals unnecessary. The future may truly bring the end of privacy.

The smart phone application has been invented by a Swedish company called The Astonishing Tribe (TAT). It combines computer vision, cloud computing, facial recognition, social networking, and augmented reality.

In the Technology Review website, Erika Jonietz quotes TAT’s Dan Gardenfors as saying, “It’s taking social networking to the next level.” (and SPYING too?) “We thought the idea of bridging the way people used to meet, in the real world, and the new Internet-based ways of congregating would be really interesting.”

Can computers read our minds? Scientists can predict with near-perfect accuracy the last thing you saw just by analyzing your brain activity under an fMRI machine (but they need to “prep” you first).

This can’t be used to spy on people, because before a mind reading session, scientists need to scan your brain while showing you thousands of images. A computer then analyzes how your brain responds to each one according to details like shape and color. Eventually a “code” can be established for your particular brain, which can later be used to identify and reconstruct almost any object you see.

On the PopSci website, Lisa Katayama describes her personal experience with being scanned in this way and quotes neuroscientist Jack Gallant as saying, “Whenever I tell anyone we can do this, they say there’s no way.”She quotes Shinji Nishimoto as saying, “It’s not perfect, but we’re getting pretty close.”

Meanwhile, when researchers scanned noses in 3D and categorized them by tip, ridge profile and the area between the eyes, they found 6 main types: Roman, Greek, Nubian, hawk, snub and turned-up. This is all part of the science of biometrics, which studies into ways of identifying distinguishing traits in people.

In BBC News, Doreen Walton quotes researcher Adrian Evans as saying, “Noses are prominent facial features and yet their use as a biometric has been largely unexplored. Ears have been looked at in detail, eyes have been looked at in terms of iris recognition but the nose has been neglected.”

Since they are hard to conceal, noses would work well for identification by closed circuit cameras. Evans says, “Irises are a powerful biometric but can be difficult to capture accurately and can be easily obscured by eyelids or glasses.” Also, “You can put in dilation drops which change the iris completely. No technique is infallible People can easily cover up their ears, with their hair for example. Of course, you can have a broken nose or wear a false nose or have plastic surgery but to have nose surgery to change your identity is fairly drastic.”

Finally, BBC News reports that researchers have discovered that the bacteria on our hands could be used in forensic identification, in the same way as DNA is now, since the bacteria living on each person’s skin are unique and are not removed by hand washing. We all leave a trail of bacteria behind us as we go about our lives. It’s a new day for “CSI”-type TV shows!

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