The Pros and Cons of Police Sketches Science, Technology & Curiosity 13 SEP 2016

We tend to see facial composite or police sketch images in the news a lot. They’ve been around forever, and are essentially a graphical representation of an eyewitness’ memory of a face, as recorded by a composite (police sketch) artist. These are used pretty much exclusively by police as an aid in the investigation of serious crimes, though they are also sometimes used to reconstruct a victim’s face in hope of identifying them.

police-sketch-criminal-face

Therein lies the inherent problem however. Although there is a small success rate linked to the used of these identikits, this usually relies on the perpetrator having a really distinctive facial appearance. Human brains tend to process faces holistically, meaning that our ability to actually see (and remember) parts of the face when looking at a person and then recalling those pieces is not particularly great (never mind the fact that our recall of detail from memory is fallible to say the least!).

Vox had a look at this issue can produced a pretty good video around the topic:

As highlighted towards the end of the view, newer evolutionary systems based on full face recognition (like EvoFIT from the UK and ID from the University of Cape Town, South Africa) appear to hold a lot of promise going forward. Give it a couple of years and perhaps we may finally find it time to retire the venerable position of the police sketch artist?

Related Link: Vox | YouTube

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About Craig Lotter

Software developer, husband and dad to two little girls. Writer behind An Exploring South African. I don't have time for myself any more.