Archive for 'News about research'

The naked truth (estimating body shape under clothing)

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Remember ‘X-Ray Specs’? “Look at your friend. Is that really his body you ‘see’ under his clothes?” asked the advertisements. Though no doubt disappointing to some, the answer to the question was of course ‘No’. Since their invention however, progress has been made in computerised body visualisation systems, devices which also can’t ‘see’ under peoples clothes, and yet, in a curious kind of way (as the video above shows), can.

For background, there’s probably no better place to start than the website of professor Michael Black of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (Perceiving Systems), Tübingen. Germany. The professor began publishing research details in 2008 (along with Dr. Alexandru O. Bălan ) see: ‘The naked truth: Estimating body shape under clothing’ In European Conf. on Computer Vision, ECCV, Springer-Verlag, volume 5304, LNCS, pages 15-29, Marseilles, France. October 2008.

“We propose a method to estimate the detailed 3D shape of a person from images of that person wearing clothing. The approach exploits a model of human body shapes that is learned from a database of over 2000 range scans. We show that the parameters of this shape model can be recovered independently of body pose. We further propose a generalization of the visual hull to account for the fact that observed silhouettes of clothed people do not provide a tight bound on the true 3D shape. With clothed subjects, different poses provide different constraints on the possible underlying 3D body shape. We consequently combine constraints across pose to more accurately estimate 3D body shape in the presence of occluding clothing. Finally we use the recovered 3D shape to estimate the gender of subjects and then employ gender-specific body models to refine our shape estimates.“

Applications :

“There are many applications and future directions for this new line of research. For human tracking in video it may be useful to estimate limb lengths, body shape parameters and body mass as these could be used in the inference of dynamics. Body shape parameters could be used in visual tracking applications to identify and re-acquire subjects who come in and out of the field view. For forensic video applications, the extraction of body shape parameters could be useful in identifying suspects. There are also many applications of these methods in personal fitness, retail apparel and computer games.”

Privacy concerns :

“Privacy concerns must be addressed for any technology that purports to ‘see’ what someone looks like under their clothes. Unlike backscatter X-ray and infra-red sensors, our approach does not see through clothing. It does not have any information about the person’s body that is not available essentially to the naked eye; in this sense it is not intrusive. [orig. emphasis]

Note: The work was supported in part by the Office of Naval Research.

Update: Since 2008 many other research teams across the globe have been looking into the possibilities of algorithmic clothing removal. For a recent example, see W.-Y. Chang and Y.-C. F. Wang, ‘Seeing Through The Appearance: Body Shape Estimation Using Multi-View Clothing Images’, IEEE International Conference on Multimedia & Expo (ICME), June 2015.

Bonus: If you have WebGl™ running on your internet browsing system (it’s a built-in component of many modern browsers, but you may have to enable it) then you can view an interact in real-time with the BodyVisualiser provided by Max Planck Gesellschaft.

The Snoezelen/Dementia Disco/Nursing-Home Question

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

A medical controversy, little reported, about snoezelen:

Snoezelen in Dementia: Disco in the Nursing Home or Sensible Therapeutic Offering?” [article in German], Reuschenbach B, Mallau A., Pflege Zeitschrift, 2005 May;58(5):304-8. The authors are at the Psychologischen Institut, Abt. Allgemeine & Theoretische Psychologie, Universität Heidelberg.

Animal squawks squeaks and songs (with helium)

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

William_RamsayAlthough a considerable body of scholarly work has examined the effects of Helium (2He) on human voice production [see, for example (Helium-assisted) High note research] we are by no means the only animals to have been investigated in this respect – here is a (non-exhaustive) list of examples of other creatures who have squawked, croaked, squeaked and even sung (soprano) under the influence of 2He.

Birds: Vocal tract resonances in oscine bird sound production: evidence from birdsongs in a helium atmosphere.

Frogs: Frogs in helium: The anuran vocal sac is not a cavity resonator.

Bats: The acoustics of the vocal tract in the horseshoe bat Rhinolophus hildebrandti.

Dolphins: Dolphin whistles: a functional misnomer revealed by heliox breathing.

Monkeys: The source-filter theory of whistle-like calls in marmosets: Acoustic analysis and simulation of helium-modulated voices.

BONUS with audio: ‘Soprano singing in gibbons’  – their normal singing can be heard here, via the Silvery Gibbon Project, and their Helium Soprano voice, here, via Nature.

Note: The photo shows Sir William Ramsay KCB FRS FRSE (1852–1916) the British chemist who received the 1904 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the ‘Noble Gases’ e.g. 2He


Biometrics via armpit odo(u)r assessment (w & w/o deodorant)

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

In these days of intensified focus on accurate biometrics, the question may be asked: ‘Is it possible to ID an individual by their armpit odour – even if they use deodorant?’


Researchers Chatchawal Wongchoosuk, Mario Lutz and Teerakiat Kerdcharoen from Mahidol University, Bangkok, have made preliminary progress in this field. Their paper ‘Detection and Classification of Human Body Odor Using an Electronic Nose’ (in: Sensors, vol. 9, pp. 7234-7249) recounts the development of their E-nose which features enhanced humidity correction.

“Armpit odors of two volunteer persons were measured by an E-nose during five days using a combined hardware/software humidity correction.“

“During the experiment period, the volunteers were requested to go about their ordinary life and activities: for example, they took a shower twice a day (before going to bed and after waking up following the morning sample collection). To avoid fluctuation in odor samples, they were not allowed to have sex and/or consume alcohol. To study the effects from deodorant, the volunteers were requested to use deodorant, after taking shower in the morning, but only on the right arm.”

The results, for those who wish to open the door to the field of human body odor biometrics, were promising :

“The E-nose in conjunction with PCA [principle component analysis] method was shown to differentiate the body odors of two persons with similar life style and activities. In addition, we have found that deodorant does not effect the relative identification of these two persons. In order to extend the discrimination of human body odors beyond two persons, a number of improvements are required such as increasing sensor types that response to a variety of volatile molecules. It is hoped that the preliminary results presented in this paper will open the door to the field of human body odor biometrics.”

Podcast #31: Tilted Eiffel Tower, Green-haired Swedish Blondes

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller; Converting old Russian ammunition into new diamonds; A machine that you can point at someone to induce them to get confused, and shut up; How to see brain activity in a dead salmon; and The puzzle of why some blonde people in Sweden suddenly found their hair turning green— all these all turn up in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

Click on the “Venetian blinds” icon — at the lower right corner here — to select whichever week’s episode you want to hear:

SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free.

This week, Marc Abrahams tells about:

The mysterious John Schedler or the shadowy Bruce Petschek perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, both on the new CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).