Monika Durova – Crimestoppers Intern
SRs – ordinary people with extraordinary abilities
A talent for face recognition
Dr Davis’ research on Super-Recognisers (SRs) has attracted international media interest due to its importance to major police forces (including London’s Metropolitan Police Service, Cologne Police – Germany). Businesses such as YOTI, who specialise in digital identity, are also keen in its development. Even though the phenomenon is fairly new to the public, during the past few years super-recognisers have proven to be an essential tool for fighting crime.
With an estimated 6 million CCTV cameras, the United Kingdom is the most surveilled nation in the world. With so many cameras watching us every day we are entering a new era of detection – one that could prove to be cheaper than DNA analysis and fingerprints examination.
Met Police ‘Super-Recognisers’ make 75% fewer mistakes identifying people than the average person
Humans trump technology
However, whilst we live in a highly technological world, when it comes to face recognition – human superpowers are on. Research shows that SRs significantly outperform automated face recognition technology.
For example, during the 2011 London riots, the Metropolitan Police used SRs to identify 30 per cent of the rioters. One SR, Gary Collins, singlehandedly identified over 185 people. In contrast, the facial recognition program only identified one person. This illustrates that not everything with technology is better and that some things are still best left to humans.
SRs at first hand
Working on the SRs project at the University of Greenwich gave me the opportunity to meet and test a good number of these talented people. To be honest they are just normal people with extraordinary abilities. Most of them don’t even realise they are SRs until they are tested and identified as ones. They often assume that everybody else is like them.
Indeed, statistically SRs make up only one per cent of the population which makes their ability relatively rare.
If you wonder whether you can be a super-recogniser, you can find this out by taking this 5 minutes test