ADDU student creates software to detect criminals’ facial cover

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 March) — Criminals wearing masks, artificial beard or moustache to elude arrest, watch out.

A graduating student of computer science at the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) has created a software that could revolutionize law enforcement in the country as it can remove masks and moustaches from faces of people in photographs, with processing speed of only six to ten second.

“Imagine images of criminals who use artificial beards and moustaches to hide their identities.  There is definitely a need to unmask them,” said Charmaine B. Espinas, also a scholar of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Espinas was among three winners in “Best Projects” of the 2011 Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI-DOST) Science Awards.

Her project, titled “An Offline Terminal-based Beard & Moustache Removal Using Sparse Matrix Representation for Feature Detection,” one of  three projects awarded P25,000 by the DOST and BPI in their annual search for best IT, science and engineering projects by graduates.

Espinas said none of the law enforcement and regulatory agencies in the country has used this technology, based on her review of literature when she was doing the project in the first semester last year. She said only Japan and India have used this technology, based on the scanning of available information in the Internet.

In a DOST posting, Espinas was quoted as saying that her study “would prove helpful in handling security issues, citing the importance of image manipulation when needs arise”.

The software is capable of generating the original face and skin texture after removing the hair outgrowths such as beards and moustaches, and was tested in 20 sample photographs lifted from the Internet.

“This may not be a super perfect but I think this is a breakthrough, especially in security matters,” she said.

Espinas said she took a different route from that taken by many other graduates drawn to algorithms, or programs that offer solutions to IT certain requirements, and network programs.

“I wanted to try a different path in the image manipulation field,” she said.

Espinas thanked her mentors, among them a  Jesuit scholar who has been teaching IT and computer science here and abroad.

She said the project interested her “because it involved visual and graphical outputs.”

“I like to research on things that are significant to others, even to those who are not experts in the field,” she added.

There has been no inquiries yet on the prospects of her project but BPI has offered her a managerial job.

Aside from Espinas, the two other winners in the “Best Projects” award are her classmate Joyce Ann J. Nacorda, with her software to restore pidgin texting language in the Internet chatting sites to their normal Tagalog translation, and Jenny Marie Quiao, a biology student at Ateneo.

At the awarding rites on February 11 at the Ateneo, they received plaques, cash awards and an opportunity to work at any BPI branch.

The annual BPI-DOST Science Awards “encourages budding scientists and researchers to scale higher levels of excellence in their chosen fields”, the DOST said. The Awards started 1989 to recognize outstanding young men and women from all over the Philippines “whose efforts made them excel in specialized fields of science, namely: mathematics, physics, engineering, chemistry, biology, and computer science.” (MindaNews)