Officer Garcia, coming to an ID parade near you
A major cause of miscarriages of justice could be avoided if computers, rather than detectives, guided witnesses through the identification of suspects. That’s according to Brent Daugherty at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte and colleagues, who say that too often officers influence witnesses’ choices.
The problem was highlighted in 2003 when the Innocence Project in New York analysed the case histories of 130 wrongly imprisoned people later freed by DNA evidence. Mistaken eyewitness identification was a factor in 77 per cent of the cases examined.
In a bid to improve impartiality in photo viewings of suspects, Daugherty’s team has constructed “Officer Garcia”, a 3D animated avatar capable of voice recognition.
To test the virtual detective, the team showed 260 volunteers a video of a mock wallet theft and asked them to identify the thief, first with an impartial student guiding them through the process, and then the avatar. They found comparable results both times, suggesting Officer Garcia performed as well as an impartial human. Daugherty now plans to test the avatar in field trials.
Via New Scientist