Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Privacy Sci-Fi Science Your Rights Online

Public Iris Scanning Device In the Works 154

Nonfinity writes "A public iris scanning device has been proposed in a patent application from Sarnoff Labs in New Jersey. The device is able to scan the iris of the eye without the knowledge or consent of the person being scanned. The device uses multiple cameras, captures multiple images, and then selects the best image to process."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Public Iris Scanning Device In the Works

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:07AM (#17919534)
    Damnit, someone watched Minority Report and went "Heeeeey, good idea....GET ME R&D"
    • by altoz ( 653655 )
      > Damnit, someone watched Minority Report and went "Heeeeey, good idea....GET ME R&D"

      Such bad luck, too! That must have been one of 5 people that actually watched the movie.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Speed Pour ( 1051122 )
      I know you're joking, but on a semi-serious note...doesn't that movie constitute 'prior work' or 'prior invention'?

      The patent system, as it's defined, says that patentable ideas must not be a logical extension of existing ideas or an idea already created by somebody else. I skimmed both links and I can't find (maybe I missed it?) any mention of a the date related to when this company claims first provable conception of the idea. Unless they built something years ago, this isn't going to hold water.

      • Um, what?

        Minority reported didn't include the design documents for that magical technology.

        The patent [if any] would cover the design of the solution.

        Just wait till warp drive is invented...
        • Minority reported didn't include the design documents for that magical technology

          Patents aren't about the design documents, their office clearly states it's about ideas. The reason most patents include design documents is because a patent can also be dismissed if it's too vague or encompasses a concept that's so large that it's unlikely the originator of the patent could have conceived a use that relates in some way. Many patents are filed without design docs, including quite a few from Microsoft, Sun, IBM, and Novell (just to name some of the worst offenders).

          The patent [if any] would cover the design of the solution.

          What do you mean, "if

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tomstdenis ( 446163 )
            You simultaneously called them "offenders" and then said they're not about designs.

            That's just it, a patent is supposed to cover the ideas contained within a design of a working solution. This is why you can't patent things that are illogical [or outside the realm of understood science].

            Otherwise, we could just sit down, think of a million devices we can't create yet and shut down the "IP" industry.

          • I think it is now about time, for me to market my special 'mirror' contacts to people. Like the eyes that guy had in that Star Trek episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" I think it was.

            Mirrored sunglasses right on the eyeball....this should keep them from reading your iris or other eye data, eh? That and it just looks cool.

            I know chicks hate it when you have mirror shades on at the beach, etc (I can't tell where his eyes are looking). I wonder how bad they'd hate these?

            A side more red eye o

      • I believe (but IANAPL) that that clause applies to patents for things that are either common (i.e. the wheel) or very similar to other patented works. It would not apply to something imagined in a science fiction novel/movie.
    • I foresee a new market developing for iris-concealing contact lenses.
      • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )
        Meanwhile it looks like I may be wearing my '80s-style sunglasses more often. They're darker than anything you can buy today that isn't opaque and they wrap around preventing side-acquisition of biometric data.

        And cranking up the brightness on my monitors to compensate.
      • Perhaps Oakley is behind this new technology...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Yoozer ( 1055188 )

      The device is able to scan the iris of the eye without the knowledge or consent of the person being scanned

      Not only Minority Report. Wesley Snipes' performance in Demolition Man also demonstrated the scanning of an iris without consent (simply by scooping the eyeball out of a freshly killed person and plopping it on a sharp object, waving it in front of the scanner).

      Just be glad that they copied it from Minority Report instead of Demolition Man. *shudder*

    • Let's just hope that Osama isn't an organ donor.

  • Put on... (Score:4, Funny)

    by FredDC ( 1048502 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:09AM (#17919552)
    Put on your tin foil hat... And sun glasses!
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think you were trying to say... contact lenses with a highly reflective coating (red is preferable).
    • Put on your tin foil hat... And sun glasses!

      Make sure they're the mirrored type!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Only terrorists wear shades.
      • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )
        Only terrorists wear shades.

        Well that explains the FBI then. And the CIA. And the Secret Service. And....

        "Can I ask you something? These sunglasses: they're really nice. Are they government-issued, or do all you guys go to the same store?"
    • I think this is why you so frequently see characters in sci-fi movies wearing sunglasses
    • According to Ray Kolczynski, who claims to be the Program Manager for the Covert Iris Scanner project at Sarnoff Corporation ( []), "the system *does* work on a subject wearing most common forms of sunglasses". Noteably, the scanner would not work on a person wearing glasses/sunglasses/lenses made from a material reflecting or absorbing IR radiation. Standard reflective sunglasses might only reflect VISIBLE light, not necessarily IR light.

      Hopefully, we who like to wear our tin foil hat i
  • Priorities? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blowdart ( 31458 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:09AM (#17919554) Homepage
    Interesting to note that the article focusses on the less sinister uses for this, customised advertising, whilst bypassing any mention of privacy aside from a nod to saying it could take place "without the knowledge or participation of the subject". So whose money will talk fastest, advertisers or Homeland Security?
  • Finally (Score:2, Funny)

    by Centurix ( 249778 )
    An excuse to wear shades in a cinema. It's the 80's all over again!
    • by Suriyel ( 230254 )
      Hmm, the Molly Millions look might be coming (back?) into style.
    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      An excuse to wear shades in a cinema. It's the 80's all over again!
      Or, an excuse to dress like you're visiting the Matrix.

      Oblig Breakfast Club:

      [John hands you shades]
      "For better hallway privacy."
  • Won't Work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by giafly ( 926567 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:12AM (#17919584)

    The problem, says Davies, is the limited accuracy of biometric systems combined with the sheer number of people to be identified. The most optimistic claims for iris recognition systems are around 99 per cent accuracy - so for every 100 scans, there will be at least one false match.

    This is acceptable for relatively small databases, but the one being proposed will have some 60 million records. This will mean that each person's scan will match 600,000 records in the database, making it impossible to stop someone claiming multiple identities. - new scientist []
    Please can someone design one of those standard forms for these bogus ID schemes - like the one with all the reasons why anti-spam technologies won't work.
    • I've never seen such pessimistic claims for iris recognition. With a false accept rate of 1/1000 to 1/10000, you can achieve a false accept rate of pretty much zero. I respect Simon Davies, but I'm not sure he has his facts right here.
      • I've never seen such pessimistic claims for iris recognition. With a false accept rate of 1/1000 to 1/10000, you can achieve a false accept rate of pretty much zero. I respect Simon Davies, but I'm not sure he has his facts right here.

        Actually the only place RTFA gives a rate of false positives is where it says "Good quality scans result in a 'false match' less than one time per one hundred billion (this system has been used with excellent results in the United Arab Emirates)." I'd say that's pretty goo

    • Re:Won't Work (Score:4, Insightful)

      by M_Hulot ( 859406 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:35AM (#17919786)
      You're quite right that it won't work. The 99% accuracy figure that you quote is very high, compared to fielded system. The UK government seems to have put it's scheme on hold after it "failed half its assessments." is_evaluation_report/ [] Note that these tests were on actively cooperating participants. The success rate for those not cooperating has to be very low.

      BTW the Live Science article suggests that: "Good quality scans result in a "false match" less than one time per one hundred billion". This estimate seems to be off by a factor of between 1 and 10 billion. Check out other articles by the same journalist: "New Study finds Sun only 491 feet from Earth".

      • by stiggle ( 649614 )
        They claimed "good quality" scans, but unfortunately all the scanners currently available aren't that good :-)
    • The worse problem (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Moraelin ( 679338 )
      The worse problem, when you think about it, is the number of persons that are going to be scanned.

      E.g., let's say you stick this in an airport, and give it an insane resolution camera. You want to identify suspects quickly in a crowd, right? So if this thing is this good at scanning people without even having them look in a gizmo, better batch scan any iris that has enough pixels on that camera, right?

      The problem there is that there'll be maybe a thousand people in any place in the airport at a time, so aro
      • As you walk through the metal detector, a guard sticks a camera in front of your face. There is you good camera shot. If you come up as a suspect, your mug shot appears on the security screen, or other biometric software crossreferences the camera info. More to my concern is what happens when your iris scan/facial biometrics/scanned fingerprint, becomes your legal ID.
      • There's more than the one system that can be used to identify individual people by individual sets of eyes. Families, coworkers, friends, and cleaning crews can be deduced with more accuracy by comparing known social networks (phone records, addresses, etc.) with the identified people in a particular group and using that the help assess/verify everyone in that group. Not all of these systems are foolproof, but when you get an overlapping series of assessment tools, one might come closer to solving the probl
      • by mgblst ( 80109 )
        Yes, because it is silly to expect them to continue working on the system and improve it. Obviously they would have all moved onto some other projects, and never before considered these statistics. Thanks for that.
        • You have to remember that technology isn't composed just of the enthusiastic nerds developping it, but also of the morally-challenged marketeers selling half-baked technologies as the solution to all world's problems and then some. The nerd working on the recognition algorithm may well be aware of the limitations and need for improvement, but that doesn't ever stop the marketting team from selling something that's not even half-ready for RL use.
  • by zyl0x ( 987342 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:12AM (#17919586)
    In all seriousness, I would've thought someone in London would come up with this idea first.
    • Nah, we love all those crappy cameras... actually we want more of them!
      What's the point of changing unreliable technology with new unreliable technology?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 )
        What's the point of changing unreliable technology with new unreliable technology?
        Can we at least get ONE thread that doesn't deal with "why upgrade to Vista"?
  • by Neuropol ( 665537 ) * on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:14AM (#17919606) Homepage
    Do we know that repeated retina scanning is healthy for our eyes?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by daranz ( 914716 )
      This device is not going to scan retinas, it does iris recognition []. And no, it doesn't really do anything to your eye besides taking a hi-res photo of it.
    • One scan a day, keeps the doctor away...
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:19AM (#17919632) Homepage
    Contact lenses that alter eye color are already in popular, widespread use.

    How hard would it be to construct a contact lens with a unique, fake, computer-generated iris image (no idea how you'd do that, but "fractals" sounds like a good buzzword to insert here)? Sound like it would be a lot easier than fake fingerprints.

    In a situation where you knew you were being scanned, the officials might say "I see you're wearing contacts, remove them please," but I don't quite see an airport saying "no contact lenses allowed in this airport..." particular if the idea is that the scanning is supposed to be surreptitious.

    • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:29AM (#17919726) Homepage
      The article says "Good quality scans result in a 'false match' less than one time per one hundred billion."

      It also says "the newly proposed system is that it allows iris scans to be taken without the knowledge or participation of the subject."

      What it does not say is that "the newly proposed system allows good quality scans, with a 'false match' of less than one time per one hundred billion, to be taken without the knowledge or participation of the subject." I fancy readers are supposed to infer that conclusion, which does not follow from the premises.

      I'll bet the system has the usual impressive-sounding "99.9%" accuracy or something in that ballpark... like all those facial-recognition systems. Meaning a false positive rate of one in a thousand. Meaning that if one in a million airport visitors is a known terrorist with an iris scan in the database, then 999 out of every thousand people, yanked out of the concourse by polite but firm security officials, will be Lutheran grandmothers from Davenport, Iowa travelling to visit their children in St. Paul.

      And the officials will be unable to give any coherent explanation, since the system is supposed to be surreptitions.
      • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

        If that Lutheran grandmother also just happens to look like the terrorist whose retina she matched, yes. Theyll pull her aside. The retina scans wont exist in a vacuum. There will be a name and picture of at least the face, and probably a text description to go along with it.

        If it truly does have that accuracy, and combined with other data, its a lot easier to know if the person really is a terrorist or not. The Lutheran grandmother isnt going to look like a male Arab. Or a female one. Or even a young whit

        • Current systems only have a name in the database.

          What makes you think that the new system will have pictures, a name and a text description when the current system only has one of them?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Excors ( 807434 )
          Results from 200 billion iris cross-comparisons [] shows how the false positive rate varies with the chosen threshold, and roughly shows the false negative rate too. If you have a good enough camera, it seems like there's not much problem in choosing a threshold that works very reliably, though you presumably have to make compromises in one direction or the other if you're not getting people to stand still and look straight into your camera - but false positives don't really matter if you're using it for targe
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      Dont even really need to. Occlude the Infared or make it have a infared reflective surface in the iris location.

      They haveto be using infared, no way you can get a good iris reading without a light source at the camera point, and that has to be infared or UV to make it "invisible". IR is far easier and less of a hazard and I bet dollars to doughnuts that is their design.
    • I want to see you try that. Chances are they'll just gun you down and not bother to
      arrest you. People have tried in the past and failed miserably. To get through a
      checkpoint you'd have to _be_ the guy you're trying to impersonate and I don't
      mean just fake iris contact lense and fake thumbprints. You'd have to pass
      biometric face recognition, voice recogntion and then you'd still have to have
      the same body shape if they got see-through infrared imaging. Oh and at the newer
      checkpoints downtown they would still
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Minupla ( 62455 )
      Already have them, although the iris isn't terribly natural. []

    • by cs02rm0 ( 654673 )
      How hard would it be to construct a contact lens with a unique, fake, computer-generated iris image (no idea how you'd do that, but "fractals" sounds like a good buzzword to insert here)? Sound like it would be a lot easier than fake fingerprints.

      I've done a bit of work on iris recognition. A basic system could probably be easily faked by a contact lens, but a more sophisticated system can measure tiny variations in your pupil dilation and how your pupil dilation responds to changing light levels too. Of
  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:22AM (#17919658) Homepage Journal
    specifically about implementing something this.

    Identifying who you scanned. sure you can scan an iris without their knowledge but unless you have the pattern stored how will you know who it is? Perhaps do it at a register and match it to the card/id used? That would be underhanded to say the least.

    Storage, how much space per pattern? What is the speed of comparison to a large database? Something that is quick enough to focus ads (for the minority report fans) would require serious processing power.

    I could see it in small settings, say a business who needs a less instrusive means of security. Scan all your employees and only let them in, if accompanied by those who cannot be matched then don't admit to sensitive areas. However in the general public setting, costs for equipment to store millions of scans and process them fast enough to be meaningful is still aways off.
    • And no one will even need more than 640K of memory.

      The argument that we don't have the processing power/storage/response time to do something is only valid for a year or two. If I can do it in the lab today, add Moores law and I can do it in the wild in a couple of years.

    • The normal case is to generate a code from a particular iris pattern in a repeatable way. Think of it like a hash for your iris.

      The database lookup would be interesting, but I'm sure that there are smart ways to optimise this. People have probably already started tackling these problems.
    • Identifying who you scanned: Just place a scanner in every store near the till. Most people will use credit cards and after a few years you've got 99% of the population with iris and CC info cross referenced. Arrest the criminals that have 'avoided' detection ans say hello..... BB is watching.
    • They already know who you are, you are iris #42. You moved into location A, than B, than C. You did so at time intervals X, Y and Z. You were in proximity to Iris's #3, #56 and #98. Acquire enough of this data and they can take their time learning your name.
    • by JimBobJoe ( 2758 )
      That would be underhanded to say the least.

      Iris scanning and underhandedness go together. Motor vehicle administrators think it's the ideal biometric because the iris scan can be conducted surreptitiously as you are having your eye test for driver's license application/renewal.

  • ...mirrored sunglasses are back in style.
    • by nickmue ( 905710 )
      Whoa whoa whoa, I'm going to need a Zach Morris timeout on this one. Mirrored sunglasses went out of style?!?
  • Patent applications propose a lot of things (claims) in the hopes that, someday during the life of the patent, if the technology is finally evolved that far, the assignee can make $$$ off of licensing.

    I'd really like to see a system capable of the kind of detail, precision, speed, and tracking required for covert iris analysis, in real time, from a distance.

    LSS: just because it's in a claim doesn't mean it'll ever happen - the name of the game is to add as many related claims as possible to cover all possib
  • Jab (Score:3, Funny)

    by Talisman ( 39902 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:30AM (#17919736) Homepage
    I don't know about the rest of you, but iris scanners scare the crap out of me. Every time I look into the peephole to get scanned, I'm relatively certain a large needle will shoot out from behind the glass and stab me in the eye.
  • I am getting me some of these contacts []
    • by nireus ( 988551 )
      So that's the problem?Where to find contacts and sunglasses to avoid the scanning?These iris scanners should not be used in the first place.If nobody objects to it in a few years it will be probably illegal to wear those contacts. Ah,I should remove that anal probe,i think those E.T bastards are spying on me...
    • Neat contacts..but, I don't see any type of 'mirrored' contacts...wonder why?
  • by Cicero382 ( 913621 ) < minus author> on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:34AM (#17919774) not so much that this is possible, but that the inventors seem to feel sure that there's a market in this AND that there won't be any serious objection to stop it. A bit like the proliferation of "security" (read "unadulterated snooping") cameras in London.

    Actually, thinking about it, what *really* worries me is that people *won't* object to it. Not really.

    Ah! Brave new world... etc.
  • I'm a patent examiner and unfortunately the ap (only at first glance) looks pretty solid. I never like to see a technology that exploits people as it's main purpose but this branch of government won't be able to stop it. The good news is at the current time it appears the implementation is cost-prohibitive so it won't be implemented for a number of years in mass. I hope when this technology is implemented there are some restrictions put on it. Invasion of privacy is a big and growing problem.
    • From taking patent law, this application reminds me of a case: Juicy Whip v. Orange Bang [], involving a device meant to display a fake drink container to trick consumers into thinking their drink was being dispensed from a bubbling container instead of being made on-the-fly from mix. The courts concluded that the immorality of an invention was no bar to its being patented. Although the PTO reacted to Rifkin's stunt of trying to patent human/animal chimeras by saying there'll be no patents on monsters []."

      To b
  • by waif69 ( 322360 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @09:50AM (#17919952) Journal
    The system had a problem with people who blinked too much. I had to sit in front of the camera and remain still and it took a picture of my eye a few times before it got a good enough image. Out of 5 people who participated, all but one had to have multiple pictures taken.

    I just can't see this system being used with cameras that randomly take pictures from varying distances and work, unless the cameras and software improved quite a bit in the past two years.
  • Knew it all along. Time to get me a 'poon or a pizza delivery job..oh and a samurai sword too.
    • Maybe hanging out in smoke filled spaces will come back into fashion. Incidently this guy [] is doing more with sea kayaks than most.

  • It's not the style or coolness that makes people wear mirrorshades in the 2020s. It's the attempt to stay unscanned and undetected.
  • IED (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SnackmasterMusic ( 1050984 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @10:07AM (#17920128)
    Why, all the better to remote detonate you with, Granny!

    Which terrorist group will detonate our beloved freedom fighters with this first?

    "and when I gave them cell phones, they could not get enough...

    generating the database is simple, just use the network of driver's license ID cameras.

    the only good news is the economics of technology mean this will be first used by high-value targets against other high-value targets. Think large-scale corporate wars vs. vengeful government agencies...with the rest of us as collateral damage.

    and- which foreign state will get access to our database first?

    on the other hand, think of how many more dead soldiers we will be able to recognize on the battle field! yay!

  • Contacts? Glasses? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I don't know about contacts, but my glasses must do wonders for light path - astigmatism corrections (different on each eye) AND progressive bifocals AND distance corrections (different on each eye). Gotta remember to keep them pushed up the bridge of my nose, I guess.

    Oh, and they're coated so as to reduce UV.
  • And suddenly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 )
    people are wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day :)
  • by Panaqqa ( 927615 ) * on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @10:23AM (#17920308) Homepage
    Unless the system takes advantage of people that are in close proximity to the camera to get its pictures. Think about the resolution required otherwise. Let's say we have a picture that is 2,048 x 1,536 pixels... now, can you imagine a person's irises taking up more than 1% of the width of the picture, unless it were a rather close "headshot" type pose? Now, take a look at some closeup shots of human irises []. How much information do you think you'll get from 20 x 15 pixels?

    Now, instead of 3 megapixels, think 12. That's still only 40 x 30 pixels. Not enough.

    I'll worry when 100 megapixels becomes commonly available. (Yes I know the Navy has a 111 megapixel CCD).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jon Luckey ( 7563 )
      now, can you imagine a person's irises taking up more than 1% of the width of the picture, unless it were a rather close "headshot" type pose

      Ah, we're all safe until someone invents robotically aimed telephoto cameras.

      How hard is that?
      • Ah, we're all safe until someone invents robotically aimed telephoto cameras. How hard is that?

        As a professional robotics engineer who is also taking a computer vision class at the moment I'm glad you asked! IMHO the answer is about a 6 on a scale of 10 for difficulty by my estimates, even easier if you don't have the requirement to ID every single person in a crowd, and if the subject introduction rate is low enough.
        There is already software to identify and track multiple human targets, there are algor
  • A friend was "sweating out his PhD" in a lab which contained a cool computer-driven laser-etching device. He and a friend hatched a drunken plan to etch parallel lines into a pair of contact lenses, creating a nice one-way mirror effect. No idea if they ever managed it (presumably not), but I wonder if they filed a patent on the idea...
  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:36PM (#17922062)
    It doesn't mean that they need to be always *used*. Think about this this way - the US government has nuclear bomb technology. They *could* nuke San Francisco tomorrow if they really wanted to. But they don't. Ability to use != automatic use. The same as the EZ-pass system having the ability to track cars even outside of toll roads and even issue speed tickets automatically. But do they set up transponders to use that ability? The worst ideas are generally moderated by risk of a public outcry as well as morality. People in government are human too.


  • ...sunglasses! Big Brother can't make you not wear sunglasses when you're out in public. So much for catching those pesky terrorists by looking at their irises!
  • ...I wear my sunglasses at night...

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.