Researchers Revolutionize Skin Detection

2nd Lt. Jeffrey Bintz, a masters student at the Air Force Institute of Technology, demonstrates the multispectral camera system. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sandy Simison)

2nd Lt. Jeffrey Bintz, a masters student at the Air Force Institute of Technology, demonstrates the multispectral camera system. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sandy Simison)

Lance Cpl. Cedric Haller II
Defense Media Activity

The camera can be traced back to as early as the 11th century. Even then, its aim was to replicate the function of the human eye to capture images. As time moved on, the camera became increasingly more advanced to the point that it has well surpassed its predecessor. With today’s research and technology, it has taken another giant leap in that direction.

The Sensors Exploitation Research Group at the Air Force Institute of Technology, led by Dr. Michael J. Mendenhall, has honed in on the process of differentiating human skin from other materials within an image to reduce false detection.

Cameras today have a plethora of different uses, such as:

  • Locating wounded and missing persons
  • Search, rescue and recovery
  • Security and surveillance

These color-based images typically have high false detection rates, which can make it difficult to locate people. Mendenhall’s research team has developed a prototype camera system that specifically works with a skin detection and color estimation approach.

Mendenhall, an Assistant Professor of Computer Engineering at AFIT’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, along with his research team use a multispectral camera system to enhance skin detection by focusing on the amount of melanin in the skin. Melanin is the primary component in determining skin color.

“Our approach concentrates on the melanin and water in skin. It can detect the skin while providing a means to determine how much melanin it contains. Since melanin is the primary element contributing to skin’s color, it’s a valuable piece of information to extract,” said Mendenhall. “I can use our camera system to filter out skin types based on the details of the person of interest. We can show only fair skinned people, only dark skinned people, or anything in between. This is particularly useful in speeding up the search process and improving an analyst’s ability to locate persons of interest.”

“Well how does that work exactly?” The system combines the necessary information from the visible and near-infrared light spectrum so that it enables them to distinguish between human skin and other common material such as grass, trees, and building tops, while providing the ability to filter out skin colors that aren’t relevant.

This machine is not only efficient, but cost effective as well. It is capable of real-time detection and color estimation at typical video speeds, at about 10 percent of the foot print and 10 percent of the cost.

Mendenhall’s team is working on improving their system’s skin detection by including the mirror-like reflection that skin produces, and eventually hairs, into their calculations.

The possibilities with this new technology are endless, such as changing the way reconnaissance is planned and executed. It could maybe one day be used all throughout the U.S. Armed Forces.

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