Technology to Focus on Iris Recognition, Low-Light Applications

SMU (Dallas) – SMU research into smart, ultra slim camera technology has won another $2 million in Department of Defense funding for 2010, which will allow electrical engineering professor Marc Christensen and his research team to extend the capability of these "high tech eyes" for both homeland security and battlefield use.

 Dr. Marc Christensen
The Department of Defense has previously funded SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering for development, field-testing and technology transfer for a high performance small camera system with military applications for small aerial drones and helmet cameras. The new allocation will bring DOD funding on the project to more than $5.5 million.

"This new money will allow us to extend our camera technology for use in non-cooperative iris recognition systems needed for homeland security and other defense applications," Christensen said. "And it will allow us to enhance the camera system to make it capable of active illumination so it can travel into dark places – like caves and urban areas."

Christensen’s research team is developing a new generation of ultra small lightweight camera systems that produce sharp, clear images. The technology uses advanced algorithms to link a series of small, overlapping images produced by dozens of tiny, mirrored lenses to achieve the kind of resolution previously restricted to traditional cameras with large, heavy lenses. The new system is called PANOPTES (Processing Arrays of Nyquist-limited Observations to Produce a Thin Electro-optic Sensor) after Greek mythological character Argus Panoptes – a giant sentry with a hundred eyes.

Because the system does not rely on a large lens, it can be manufactured as flat and as thin as a stack of two credit cards – which means it can be mounted almost anywhere.

SMU was able to secure the additional funding, which President Obama recently approved as part of the Defense Appropriation Bill, with the help of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

As part of this new funding, Christensen will collaborate with SMU’s TI Distinguished Professor of Engineering Education, Dr. Delores Etter, a former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, to apply the technology to iris recognition systems used for identification purposes. Christensen and Etter will work to adapt the PANOPTES system of overlapping images controlled by a computer to cut through the distortion and blurring that occur in low light iris scanning, or when non-cooperative subjects move as their eyes are being scanned – applications that would be of critical value in airport security systems, for example.

About the SMU Lyle School of Engineering

The SMU Lyle School of Engineering is committed to developing the new American engineer, one prepared to excel and lead in creating new economic opportunities while meeting the most difficult technical challenges facing society. The Lyle School maintains a steadfast focus on using engineering to address important issues both at home and around the world.

Founded in 1925 and located in the heart of Dallas, the Lyle School is one of the oldest engineering schools in the Southwest. The school offers eight undergraduate and 29 graduate programs, including both masters and doctorate levels.