Thermal Cameras Could Be Used to Spot Drunks

By Valerie Tejeda 09/05/12

Police may soon be able to detect whether someone is drunk simply by looking at their face.

Drinking causes "hot spots" in the face.
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In the not-too-distant future, police may be able to spot a drunk just by looking at his or her face. Researchers from the University of Patras in Greece are currently developing software that uses thermal imaging to help authorities identify higher levels of intoxication. Drinking alcohol causes the blood vessels to dilate on the skin’s surface which leads to “hot spots” on the face—and research reveals these hot spots are detectable via thermal imaging scans. According to findings published in the International Journal Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, researchers are working on developing two different algorithms to spot drunkenness. The first method involves measuring pixel values of a person’s face and them comparing the images to that of sober and intoxicated individuals. Similar technology has been used to determine whether a person was infected with a virus such SARS or the flu. The second approach assesses the thermal differences from different regions of the face (such as the nose and forehead) to identify intoxication. While both methods could be effective, the team suggests that the two methods combined would provide the most accurate measurement. The scans could also be used to identify drunk people in public before they purchase more booze. Researchers hope the new software will help do away with preconceived notions about drunkenness, and instead focus purely on evidence.

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix,, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.