Improving Tattoo Recognition

An international group of experts from industry, academia and government gathered recently at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to discuss challenges and potential approaches to automated tattoo recognition, which could assist law enforcement in the identification of criminals and victims.

One in five American adults sport a tattoo, and among the criminal population, that number is much higher. And while tattoos can be used to assist identification of people who may have committed a crime, they also are potentially valuable in supporting identification of victims of mass casualties such as tsunamis and earthquakes.

 
Participants at NIST's Tattoo Recognition Technology Challenge Workshop heard the results of a preliminary trial of existing tattoo recognition software. NIST challenged industry and academia to take initial steps into automated image-based tattoo matching technology at the request of the FBI Biometric Center of Excellence (BCOE).
 
The current method of cataloging tattoo images for sharing relies on a keyword based process. But the increasing variety of tattoo designs requires multiple keywords, and examiner subjectivity can lead to the same tattoo being labeled differently depending on the examiner.
 
NIST computer scientist Mei Ngan organized the challenge and found that "the state-of-the-art algorithms fared quite well in detecting tattoos, finding different instances of the same tattoo from the same subject over time, and finding a small part of a tattoo within a larger tattoo."
 
Two areas that could use further research, she said, were detecting visually similar tattoos on different people and recognizing a tattoo image from a sketch or sources other than a photo.
 
 
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