ECS research advances identification of people by their ears

Identification of people by their earsIn a paper entitled A Novel Ray Analogy for Enrolment of Ear Biometrics scientists from the University of Southampton’s school of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) described how a technique called the image ray transform can highlight tubular structures such as ears, making it possible to identify them.

The research which was carried out by Professor Mark Nixon, Dr John Carter and Alastair Cummings at ECS, describes how the transform is capable of highlighting tubular structures such as the helix of the ear and spectacle frames and, by exploiting the elliptical shape of the helix, can be used as the basis of a method for enrolment (the discovery, localisation and normalisation of the image) for ear biometrics.

Professor Nixon, one of the UK's earliest researchers in this field, first proved that ears were a viable biometric back in 1999. He said then that ears have certain advantages over the more established biometrics as they have a rich and stable structure that is preserved from birth to old age and instead of ageing they just get bigger. The ear also does not suffer from changes in facial expression and is fixed in the middle of the side of the head against a predictable background, unlike face recognition which usually requires the face to be captured against a controlled background.

However, the fact that ears can be concealed by hair led Professor Nixon and his team to research their use as a biometric further and to come up with new algorithms to make it possible to identify and isolate the ear from the head.

The new technique presented by the scientists achieves 99.6% success at enrolment across 252 images of the XM2VTS database, displaying a resistance to confusion with hair and spectacles. These results show great potential for enhancing the detection of structural features.

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