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Scientist looks for faces to make up crowd | (KRT) Ganesh Venayagamoorthy is looking for a few good faces.

He needs fear. He needs sorrow. He needs fretting and mirth and gall. And the dodgier the face, the better.

Venayagamoorthy is part of a new effort at the University of Missouri at Rolla to identify facial expressions with computers armed with cameras. The group hopes the devices will help companies know if their workers are awake and give the government new tools to separate the sketchy from the merely scared.

The scientists believe the system also could help immigration officials detect intruders by offering a second set of eyes to scan. Venayagamoorthy recently imagined a hypothetical infiltrator.

"When the immigration or customs officer is talking to him, all of a sudden it will come up on the screen - `this guy is suspicious' - and the officer will do the next level of screening," Venayagamoorthy said.

But while the new system seems to be classifying emotions fairly well, the group has run out of faces.

"Once we create our own database we can authenticate our technology," said Venayagamoorthy.

As they hunt for new faces, group members admit they're neophytes in the field. University of Pittsburgh psychologist Jeffrey Cohn, a pioneer in the area, has given them access to a faces database he co-administers with 130 groups doing similar work.

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But the pictures aren't quite right for the Rolla team. "The facial images are not all in the same frame," said Rolla engineering professor Akira Tokuhiro, a collaborator. For that reason, he said, the group needs to find its own faces.

For work recently presented in public the researchers used a database of Japanese women with different expressions. But the scientists can't be sure yet that their system will work on a mulitcultural set of mugs.

The group found a local middle school whose video filming department was willing to provide images of their students.

But the powers that be nixed the concept. "The principal was concerned about privacy," said Tokuhiro, who calls the group he and colleagues have started Applied Biometric Intelligence for Detection and Evaluation of Threats.

Venayagamoorthy said he plans to ask the Rolla police department for access to images of suspects. A call to chief David Pikka went unanswered.

If that doesn't work, the team plans to recruit students through an introductory psychology class, a common strategy for university scientists to find human subjects.

The Rolla scientists presented initial results with their system recently at a conference in St. Louis. Called ANNIE 2004, the conference dealt with computer programs that can be trained.

The group used 34 points on each Japanese woman's face to identify what emotion was expressed. The system correctly identified which emotion was displayed 92 percent of the time.

But several scientists at the conference questioned whether using the same faces to train and then test the system was a rigorous enough measure.

"I think you have a bias in there," Binghampton University computer scientist Walker Land said after Rolla graduate student Narendra Chennamsetty presented the research. The group said they had presented the photos in a random order.

One bit of evidence that the system might work was an impromptu analysis of a photo of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in a foul mood. "It said he was angry," said Chennamsetty.

To add to its abilities to determine emotion, the group hopes to add analysis of a person's speech or gesture.

In 2003 the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency funded several groups to use faces as well as human "chemosignals or thermal imaging," to discern emotion. Other groups hope to use expression analysis to diagnose mental illness or communicate with the mute.

ACLU attorney Christopher Calabrese said his group takes a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to potentially invasive surveillance tools. "The first question we would ask is, would this technology work?" he said. "If you have determined that it works, you need to determine whether it has a security benefit ... because someone looks shifty does not mean they're a security risk."

The Rolla group plans eventually to test the system at Rolla's atomic reactor, where a groggy engineer could mean disaster. "The camera can monitor an operator all the time and look for tiredness," said Venayagamoorthy.

Nuclear en

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© 2004, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services