Biometric technology allows for the verification of an individual’s identity via parameters such as their fingerprints, iris, voice, DNA ... or facial features. However, given that most people’s faces have so much in common with one another (two eyes, a nose, etc.), it’s sometimes difficult for biometric systems to tell them apart based on flat two-dimensional images. With that in mind, researchers from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca Raton have created a computer algorithm that is capable of creating 3D models of faces based on 2D images.

The system starts with a generic 3D “synthetic face,” the basic parameters of which are obtained from a number of 3D images of actual human faces. When a 2D image of a specific person is presented, the computer projects the synthetic face onto that flat image plane. The algorithm, compensating for the pose and illumination of the 2D face, transfers the subject’s features onto the synthetic face, to create a 3D approximation.

The FAU researchers believe that the technology could be applied not only to photographs but also to CCTV security footage, for use in criminal investigations or searches for missing persons. They have also put forward the rather creepy suggestion that it could be used to create animated 3D visages of celebrities from the past – hopefully we won’t be seeing Martin Luther King trying to sell us light beer anytime soon.