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SPIE Member Kevin Leonard partners with UK researchers to enhance biometric and surveillance capabilities

Engineer and scientist exchange program

07 November 2013

SPIE Member Kevin Leonard, a US Army physicist and chair of the SPIE Scholarship Committee, helped develop a 3D scanner for facial recognition during a two-year engineer and scientist exchange program in the UK.

Leonard worked with British researchers from August 2011 to July 2013 at the Sensors and Countermeasures Department of the UK Defence Science Technology Laboratory (DSTL). The researchers' task was to enhance biometric and surveillance capabilities for force protection and surveillance at forward-operating military bases.

"How far can we look and see who someone is? How can we help our soldiers see better and farther?" said Leonard, who was assigned to the DSTL lab in Salisbury.

"When someone comes into the base, how can we determine who they say they are? How can we better monitor that?" he asked. "Are there tools that can make the process smoother and more effective? Are there ways we can improve the capability without slowing down the process?"

Leonard told the Army.mil website that building a three-dimensional scanner was the greatest accomplishment his team made during the program.

"Three-dimensional images of faces help in a lot of ways," Leonard said. "The main idea is that if you enroll someone in three dimensions, you can generate any two-dimensional image at a later date. With a 3D image database, you can theoretically recreate any pose. We were exploring that to see what type of utility it has."

While on the US Army's Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program, Leonard co-authored a paper on the effects of atmospheric turbulence on facial-recognition algorithms for SPIE Security + Defence 2012 in Scotland. The paper, "Simulation of atmospheric turbulence effects and mitigation algorithms on stand-off automatic facial recognition," is part of the proceedings of the Optics and Photonics for Counterterrorism, Crime Fighting and Defence conference and can be found in the SPIE Digital Library  Co-authors are David Oxford and Jonathan Howe.

Now back in the United States, Leonard is working to establish formal collaborations with the UK to continue the facial-recognition work through the US Army's Night Vision Electronic Sensors Directorate at the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) in Virginia.

CERDEC is one of the seven research centers that make up the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.