Reflections in the eye contain identifiable faces

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Posted January 16, 2014
Reflections in the eye contain identifiable faces
(a) High-resolution face photograph, with the red frame indicating the region of interest. (b) Zoomed view of the region of interest showing the cornea and reflections of five faces. The green frame highlights the face shown in (c) as a close-up. Credit: Jenkins and Kerr, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083325
Eyes are said to be a mirror to the soul, but they may also be a mirror to the surrounding world. Researchers have found that our eyes reflect the people we’re looking at with high enough resolution so that the people can be identified. The results could be applied to analyzing photographs of crime victims whose eyes may be reflecting their perpetrators.

The researchers, Rob Jenkins at the University of York, UK, and Christie Kerr at the University of Glasgow, UK, have published a paper in PLOS ONE on extracting identifiable images of bystanders from corneal reflections. The researchers explained that at first they weren’t sure how well the images would turn out.

“Humans can recognize familiar faces from very poor images, so we knew that was on our side,” Jenkins told “At the time, we were not sure how much we would be able to recover from the eye reflections. As soon as we saw the first image, we realized we were on to something.”

In their study, the researchers used a high-resolution digital camera (Hasselblad H2D 39-megapixel camera) and illuminated the room with four carefully positioned Bowens DX1000 flash lamps. Then the photographer and four volunteer bystanders stood in a semi-circle around the subject to be photographed.

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