Glasgow Scientists Use People’s Memories to Create 3D Likeness

The technology has the potential to revolutionise how police create composite e-fits of suspects.

Neuroscientists at the University of Glasgow have developed a technique to create 3D likenesses based solely on a person’s memories.

To create the image, the team “reverse engineered” information stored in people’s brains when looking at a familiar face, then used the data to produce a 3D model of the person being thought of. To recreate the face accurately they used mathematical models.

This technology has the potential to revolutionise how police create composite e-fits of suspects. Using the memories of witnesses they will be able to create an accurate image more quickly. It also has great potential to be used in artificial intelligence and gaming.

Aside from its practical applications, the study, Modelling Face Memory Reveals Task-Generalizable Representations, will act as a cornerstone for greater understanding of how the brain functions to identify faces, according to Professor Philippe Schyns, visual cognition expert at the university’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology.

“It’s difficult to understand what information people store in their memory when they recognise familiar faces, but we have developed a tool which has essentially given us a method to do just that.

“By reverse engineering the information that characterises someone’s identity, and then mathematically representing it, we were then able to render it graphically.


“It was a surprise we were able to render the faces so accurately, and we were pleased it worked so well. It is something which could be used by the police, but it would mean a lot more work for the person who is doing the e-fit.

“They would have to set out 10,000 images in total to get the level of precision we have achieved here,” he said.

“We are working to get it [the time needed to apply the test] down. It takes about three hours for a volunteer to go through the test and it could be used by a witness if they are prepared to go through 1,800 trials,” he added.

As well as being able to create the 3D models, the scientists were able to apply the technology to take a person’s image and then gender reverse it, change its ethnicity or alter the person’s age.

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