Airports around the world could soon be seeing installations of lie-detecting kiosks that can changes in physiology and behaviour during interviews with travellers. The new innovation comes as a help to security agents to screen for criminals and potential terrorists.
The system is called AVATAR, which is short for Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real Time, and is currently being tested by the Canadian Border Services Agency as well as the US Department of Homeland Security. It’s been in development for some time, and the United States has already deployed AVATAR kiosks in ‘low risk’ areas to get a sense of how they might handle the flow of people moving into and out of the United States at the border.
“AVATAR is a kiosk, much like an airport check-in or grocery store self-checkout kiosk,” said Professor Aaron Elkins from San Diego State University in the US.
“However, this kiosk has a face on the screen that asks questions of travellers and can detect changes in physiology and behaviour 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 are curling your toes,” said Elkins.
Once a traveller steps up to the kiosk, they will be asked a series of questions, such as: ‘Do you have fruits or vegetables in your luggage?’ or ‘Are you carrying any weapons with you?’
While this is happening, AVATAR uses eye-detection software and motion and pressure sensors to track any signs of lying or discomfort.
To separate the liars from those who are just nervous about flying, it will also ask a number of innocuous baseline questions.
According to the researchers, AVATAR’s possible applications are widespread. “We’ve come to realize that this can be used not just for border security, but also for law enforcement, job interviews, and other human resource applications as well,” Elkins said.