Facial recognition app may help spot PTSD

Facial recognition app may help spot PTSD

The best-known use of facial recognition technology is arguably police efforts to identify persons of interest, but the Office of Naval Research is investigating two other potential applications – identifying autism in children and post-traumatic stress in soldiers.

Austims & Beyond -- a mobile facial recognition app developed in partnership with Duke University -- uses algorithms to map key landmarks on the face and assess emotional responses to stimuli based on movements of facial muscles, according to ONR. The facial recognition algorithm can tell, for example, if a person is forcing a smile, possibly indicating PTSD or depression in an adult or autism in a child.

“While watching stimuli like a funny video, does the child smile, look toward the caregiver or ask the caregiver to view the video as well?” asked Guillermo Sapiro, a professor at Duke University, who developed the algorithm. “We … track position and movement of the head and face, including the lips, eyes and nose -- all of which indicate emotions. Lack of emotion and social sharing are possible characteristics of childhood autism.”

“We hope to find the right partner and develop a research app studying PTSD,” Sapiro added. “We’ve already received interest from a nearby Veterans Affairs center about using this technology in veterans’ homes to monitor behavior for signs of depression.”

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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