Published DateBy Tom Eastman
CONWAY — The president of a local high-tech facial recognition software company was recently interviewed by Fox News about its possible role in helping law enforcement agencies in the days following the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15.
Killed by police in a shootout April 18 was suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was wounded in that shootout and escaped. He was captured hiding in a boat in a back yard in Watertown, Mass., the following evening after a citywide lockdown April 19. He was arrested and hospitalized, and was charged Monday with detonating a weapon of mass destruction, a charge that could carry the death penalty.
The suspects were identified as ethnic Chechen brothers who had lived in Dagestan, which neighbors Chechnya in southern Russia. They had been in the U.S. for about a decade and were believed to be living in Cambridge, Mass.
In an interview with The Conway Daily Sun this week, Animetrics president and CEO Paul Schuepp said he was interviewed by Fox News' Greta Van Susterin on her “On the Record” program Wednesday evening and he was featured again Thursday demonstrating the company's ForensicaGPS software's capabilities for three-dimensional facial recognition and its possible use by law enforcement officials investigating the Boston Marathon bombings.
“I was called Tuesday for an interview in Biometric Update, and they asked me questions about how our software might be used. Fox News saw that, and they called me, saying that Greta would like to interview me,” said Schuepp.
He drove down to Boston Wednesday, and was interviewed under a canopy tent at a corner of Boston Common near the crime scene on Boylston Street.
“[The correspondent and producer] were there, and I was to be on at 10:30 p.m., as Greta's show airs from 10 to 11 p.m. Greta, who was in Washington, D.C., was to ask me some questions over a four- to five-minute span, but then at the same exact time, she got the call about the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas, so she had to cut me short. She asked me two questions and published it on her video site,” said Schuepp.
The correspondent was interested in learning more, however, so he and fellow crew members came Thursday to Schuepp's friend's condo in Charlestown where Schuepp was staying.
“They spent an hour with me,” said Schuepp, “and pulled together an almost four-minute segment which aired Thursday night. During the segment, I demonstrated the software on my PC and was able to explain how facial recognition analysis was being used by the FBI to try and identify the faces shown in photographs from the crime scene.”
FBI has software
Schuepp told The Sun although he doesn't know for certain if the company's software was used in implicating the brothers, he knows that the FBI does have Animetrics' software.
The FBI uses Animetrics' software at its forensic laboratory in Quantico, Va. In addition, Schuepp said, the company donated facial recognition software last week after the bombings to the FBI's National Crime Information Center in Clarksburg, W. Va.
“They have a facial identification unit there,” said Schuepp. “They are in the process of getting licensed software from us, but due to logistics, they had not gotten them yet. We talked with them and allowed them to download it for use for free. I am not sure they used it, but I do know they downloaded it and got it running.”
The company's software is able to take a two-dimensional photograph of a subject and convert it to a three-dimensional model.
From the three-dimensional model, a close match can be made.
Tsarnaev 3-D model
Schuepp explained how Animetrics worked on the image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
“Attached,” said Schuepp in an e-mail to The Sun Tuesday, “is a screen shot of our product ForensicaGPS. We used the comparator mode with two images of Dzhokhar. The top image is the cropped frontal face that came from one of the surveillance camera video frames and you can see when blown up how grainy and low resolution the image is. The lower one is what we call the ground truth, the image from his [Division of Motor Vehicles] mug shot with good resolution. The right screen is the output from ForensicaGPS which made a 3D model or avatar of both faces and then we enabled a capability called the split view port, where we can slide the line across the face at any angle while we can rotate the head at any angle and we can visually compare how the components of the two faces line up or not. This is the type of analysis that is done by facial forensic analysts to make a determination.”
Asked two years ago whether his company had helped U.S. Navy SEAL forces to capture and identify al-Queda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011, Schuepp also demurred, saying only that, like the FBI, “U.S. intelligence agencies have Animetrics software.”
“They know of it,” said Schuepp, “and they are using every means possible.”
He deplored the horrors of the Boston Marathon bombings, but said that the recent media attention about his company can possibly lead to better safety across the nation and world.
“People are getting a little more public awareness that facial recognition can help,” said Schuepp. “We cannot have cameras invade our privacy, but in public places it can help people be safe. In New York City, there are cameras everywhere, on light posts and telephone poles, at Times Square, in front of movie theaters. Those images are funneled in real time to the crime center, and they are catching crimes as they occur. So,” he concluded, “the difficulty is in determining: Where is the border between privacy and protection?”
Located at Tech Village
Founded in 2002 by Dr. Michael I. Miller, Animetrics is located in the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council Technology Village in Conway.
Animetrics has 10 employees, nine at its office at the MWV Technology Center in Conway and one in Maryland. Schuepp joined the company in 2003, hired to “to lead the firm’s transition from a pure technology company to the leading provider of facial biometric solutions,” according to its Website, www.animetrics.com.
For more information about Schuepp's appearance on Fox News, visit http://animetrics.com/animetrics-in-the-news-facial-recognition-technology-could-prove-key-in-boston-marathon-bombing-manhunt/
and go to http://animetrics.com/in-the-news-facial-recognition-and-reconstructing-boston-attack-fox-news-video/