Researchers give AVATAR kiosk a tablet makeover

Feb. 12, 2013

Graduate researchers in the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management are working to put their Department of Homeland Security-funded AVATAR kiosk in the hands of travelers by developing software compatibility with tablets.

The AVATAR, which stands for Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time, is a product of BORDERS, the National Center for Border Security and Immigration, according to an article in the Daily Wildcat. It serves as a virtual interrogator and middleman between law enforcement personnel and subjects in question, using sensors to detect slight variations in human voice and facial expressions and then flagging suspicious detections for personnel.

The third-generation kiosk underwent live testing at the DeConcini Port checkpoint near the U.S.-Mexico border where commuters registered for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Trusted Traveler program were the first to trial the technology, the article reported.

The tablet integration project is underway now, according to Mark Grimes, an MIS graduate student conducting research in the AVATAR lab. It would be used on the battlefield, on a Navy vessel or other similar locations. However, scientifically, it is uncertain whether this is possible or will yield any results, Grimes said in the article.

Currently, the machine focuses on changes in vocal pitch, speed and volume. It makes a baseline of a person's voice when answering a normal question and takes note of his or her transfer to more sensitive questions, Grimes said. Researchers are working on integrating sensors for eye gaze and body movement. The release date has not been determined as it hinges on future policy measures with regards to the technology, but other real-world applications are in consideration.

"AVATARs offer consistency for the initial screening and more efficiency in higher volume applications," said William Neumann, a senior MIS lecturer, in the article. "Businesses could potentially use them to screen new employees in the initial hiring process, although this would require careful design to be in compliance with legal hiring practices."

Read more about government kiosk applications.

Topics: Custom Kiosks , Government , Security , Software , Tablets , Transportation / Travel

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