CSI and Vision

Eye on blue background (shallow DoF)

What you might think of as science fiction could actually be new and relevant technology. Imagine examining a photograph to see in a person’s eyes what he/she is looking at.  In some cases, crime scene investigators can now do just that. They can detect images in the reflection of an eye.

Researchers at the University of York and University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom studied high-resolution passport-style photos and zoomed in on the eyes to determine whether they could detect images of people and scenery that individuals were looking at. They were able to recover the faces of bystanders from reflections in the eyes. And, despite that the images were low resolution, other people viewing these faces could identify accurately the individuals reflected. In fact, 71 percent of individuals who did not know the faces reflected, and 84 percent who did, accurately matched the images to people.

According to the researchers, the pupil in the eye is similar to a black mirror. By zooming into the eye and adjusting the contrast, images of faces can be recovered from a reflection in the eyes of the person photographed.

Crime investigators believe this technology will assist them in identifying perpetrators of crimes, such as sexual abuse or hostage situations by examining the victims’ eyes in pictures. If cameras are taken as evidence in criminal inquiries, investigators may enlarge photos taken to look for faces of bystanders in people’s eyes. This information helps piece together networks of associates, or link individuals to particular locations.