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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Query Details

Query Subject:   Airport Lie Detectors
Author:   Mark Jones
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Applied Linguistics

Query:   A recent report on Yahoo (and in sections of the British press) mentions a
walk-through airport lie detector being developed in Israel by the company

Story below:

The software apparently relies on picking up ''uncontrollable tremors'' in
the voice to 'identify' liars.

The system would seem to be very unreliable in principle, given that a
speaker with an inherently creaky voice will show a great deal of random
variation in vocal fold vibrations (jitter). A slight cold, some voice
pathologies, and low pitch accompanied by creak at the end of an utterance
would also produce jitter. Older speakers, and those suffering from e.g.
Parkinson's disease, would also produce more jitter.

Is anyone aware of the background to this research and testing of its accuracy?

It seems some governments are willing to spend between £6,000 and £17,000
per unit on this system in the light of security concerns, but my fear is
that it is money wasted, and the introduction of this system may lead to a
number of innacurate identifications of 'liars' at airport check-ins.

I will post a summary of responses.


Mark Jones

Mark J. Jones
British Academy Post-doctoral Research Fellow
Department of Linguistics
University of Cambridge
LL Issue: 16.3385
Date posted: 25-Nov-2005


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