Snarki, child of Loki August 23, 2012 6:54 AM

Or to detect lying by politicians giving speeches.

The problem of “false negatives” would probably make it useless in that application, however.

Mark Gent August 23, 2012 7:19 AM

Could be crossover benefits: “Hello Mr/Ms X, we have assessed that you pose no security threat, but you do have an irregular heartbeat. I’d get it checked out if I were you”

Humberto Massa (@massa0000) August 23, 2012 7:34 AM

Or to detect lying by politicians giving speeches.

That is actually, very easy, you just have to see if their mouths are moving.


Now, seriously::

How long before someone claims he can use this technology to detect nervous people in airports?

And then, people that would really do wrong things just take a small dose of clonazepam before and they are all good, eh?

HiTechHiTouch August 23, 2012 8:40 AM

These methods only work for “normal” people, and there are a LOT of non-normal people.

An example is “White Coat” syndrome when measuring blood pressure. In these people (and there are many; ask a medical professional) bp is always elevated just because a nurse/doctor/medic is pumping up the cuff.

Personally, I always show a pronounced “guilty” reaction to any questioner. I have spent innumerable extended traffic stops, TSA screenings, entrance security questioning because, according to my always on guilt reaction, they are convinced I’ve done something and they are going to figure out what, no matter what.

Needless to say, they never do because I am righteous. But it’s gone as far as a long wait in an interview room after I finally started demanding a lawyer. All because my face flushes at the drop of a hat and my mouth dries up when talking to strangers.

kashmarek August 23, 2012 8:50 AM

Just hubris. There are probably a thousand ways to detect things in humans but at what value and cost?

Spaceman Spiff August 23, 2012 9:29 AM

“Or to detect lying by politicians giving speeches.”

The problem with that is two-fold. One, most politicians don’t have a pulse. Two, none of them have a conscience and they all believe what they say.

NobodySpecial August 23, 2012 10:10 AM

@HiTechHiTouch that’s precisely why it works – you just select the people without the raised heartrate.
After all who is the only person who isn’t afraid of a bomb on a plane? The one with the bomb !

It’s also the reason that agencies who rely on hiring psychopaths employ lie detectors.

curtmack August 23, 2012 10:11 AM

We all know most terrorists are incompetent, but if there’s one thing they are pretty well trained on, its “not feeling anxiety when you’re about to detonate bombs strapped around your stomach.”

I highly suspect normal people get far more nervous at airports than most terrorists do. Especially when they see a sign that says “Remain calm! You may be arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist if you show signs of nervousness to our cameras.”

NobodySpecial August 23, 2012 10:25 AM

@curtmack – like the signs on the tube (London’s subway) saying “report suspicious behaviour”

Acknowledging the existence of anyone else on the tube is, in itself, suspicious behaviour

Alan August 23, 2012 10:49 AM

There are several smartphone apps that do the pulse thing from having the built in camera pointed at a face.

The ones I’ve tried are reasonably accurate, within 5% of a pulse measured “traditionally”.

Figureitout August 23, 2012 11:16 AM

A question for a question.

How long until someone comes up with a way cover up or explain said nervousness?–Perhaps physiological control

Or ie: “I have high blood pressure” “I’ve got a big presentation coming up”, “My wife’s pregnant”, “I get anxious before I get sexually assaulted” etc. etc.

zombie slayer August 23, 2012 12:33 PM

This will be very useful when the zombie apocalypse occurs! This technique will detect those undercover zombies that are trying to infiltrate security checkpoints.

NobodySpecial August 23, 2012 1:21 PM

Zombies are easily identified at airports, they are the ones with the blank stares endlessly mumbling “remove your shoes and outer coat”, “remove all laptops from your luggage”.

Fortunately they are a relatively harmless sub-species and do not appear to consume (or employ) brains in any way.

Special's Nobody August 23, 2012 2:01 PM

“How long until someone comes up with a way cover up or explain said nervousness?–Perhaps physiological control”

No cover/excuse is needed for those trained/forced in D.I.D and M.P.D.

Clive Robinson August 23, 2012 5:52 PM

@ NobbodySpecial,

Fortunately they are a relatively harmless sub species and do not appear to consume (or employ) brains in any way

As a subspecies they are far from harmless, they appear to have developed new tastes that are rather too bl**dy close to the femeral arteries , so far they have resisted putting the bite on there but for how much longer?

neuromancer August 24, 2012 4:48 AM


Ah you meen those strange wiredoes who try to talk to you on the tube 🙂

Though Boris Johnstons anoucements pre olyimpics had a bit of a “Dont panic Mr Manering” vibe to them.

James Sutherland August 24, 2012 7:15 AM

The ‘crossover benefits’ suggestion reminds me of re-enrolling with my original GP after some time away. The nurse checked height, weight etc – and when checking blood pressure, announced I had a cardiac arrhythmia and should see the doctor. Three appointments later (one to see the GP, who sent me back to the nurse for an ECG on another day, who said to come back another day to see the GP again for the results) I was told something along the lines of ‘yes, she often thinks people have an arrhythmia, hasn’t been right yet though – ECG’s fine, off you go’.

Detecting nervous people in airports surely falls into the category of “fairly easy and completely pointless”: it will pick out the kids excited about their first plane ride, the worried relative rushing home to be with a sick loved one and the pilot worrying if they’ll clear that incoming weather system, but completely overlook that freshly-shaven extremist looking forward to meeting his deity.

hob_gobblin August 24, 2012 11:52 AM

Can this detect nervous people in airports? The ‘stereotype’ about evil people is that they sweat a lot, they’re nervous, etc. is what this notion is based on. But does it fit reality? Nope, because of the same reasons lie detectors don’t work. With some knowledge about the subject a person can ‘beat it’ and not be ‘detected’. Back in the day, I for example, beat 7 lie detector tests. That was 7 successes and 0 failures. It’s very easy to do with the right knowledge.

So, at best it would detect “some” people successfully-the people who don’t have this knowledge.

nervous_flyer August 24, 2012 4:05 PM

I get nervous in airports solely because of the knowledge that there are security goons in a back room somewhere watching over the cameras for suspicious behaviour, and they might arbitrarily decide to come and detain me and question me for some reason. If they start using tech like this, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy (people who are nervous because of the security will get detained by security because they appear to be nervous).

Coyne Tibbets August 26, 2012 2:30 PM

I looked at this, and I have a doubt. Maybe the some of the things (such as the pulse-related examples) can work.

But I don’t see how in the last example that they could actually amplify the motion of a shadow so it appears further up the wall or even along the top of and then above the roof of the porch, without altering the underlying shape of either. Doing that implies a knowledge of shape that a simple amplification model shouldn’t have, in a flat image.

Erik V. Olson August 27, 2012 7:25 AM

How long until someone comes up with a way (to) cover up or explain said nervousness?

Beta Blockers. Basically, they subvert the obvious manifestations of fight-or-flight. Go-to drug for stage fright.

FlyingPasswords August 28, 2012 3:19 PM

“First time?”
“Oh no, I’ve been nervous before.”

If the intent may be to detect people that are nervous at the airport because they’re up to no good, that population will be swamped by all the people who are nervous because they’re running late, have a tight connection to make, agoraphobic, claustrophobic, or simply dread the idea of a five hour flight between a screaming baby and someone who ate onions for lunch.

Might be more useful to detect the cool cucumbers with a practiced sense of calm. They’re probably the ones up to no good.

Dirk Praet August 28, 2012 3:53 PM

How long before someone claims he can use this technology to detect nervous people in airports?

Probably way faster than someone coming up with an application/solution to a real problem, for example in healthcare.

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