Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Body Shape ID Compares with a Fingerprint

Forensic anatomy researchers at The University of Adelaide are developing body recognition techniques to help with identification in criminal and missing persons cases when a face is not clearly shown in security videos.

“There’s been a lot of work conducted over the years on facial recognition,” says PhD student Teghan Lucas. “But what happens if the face is not shown, or if there is an unusual facial resemblance between two people? What happens if identification of the face alone just isn’t enough?”

Lucas says body recognition has the potential to be more widely used in identification cases. “Despite what television and the movies would have people believe, there is often a lack of good quality video evidence. Criminal cases usually involve a deliberate attempt to cover the face, or fine details can’t be seen,” she says.

Part of Lucas’ research has involved using a database of anatomical measurements of almost 4000 US armed services personnel. “We compared eight facial and eight body measurements to investigate whether or not there is enough information on the body to use for identification,” she explains.

“Results consistently show that, compared with the face, less body measurements are needed before eliminating duplicates and achieving a single ID match. The larger the range of each of the measurements, the less chance there is of finding a duplicate.

“With a combination of eight body measurements it is possible to reduce the probability of finding a duplicate to the order of one in a quintillion. These results are comparable with fingerprint analysis,” she says.

“In our experience, the body is more variable than the face and should be used in identification more often. Another advantage to using the body is that larger dimensions are easier to locate on images and not affected by facial expressions.”