Drunk? Thermal Imaging Can Tell!
September 4, 2012

Thermal Cameras Can Tell If You’re Drunk

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Computers, machines and the technology which runs them can be powerful things. When designed and implemented in the right way, these machines can do many things ordinary humans can do. As a bonus, when computers perform these same tasks, accuracy is usually better and variables such as fair wages, reasonable work place conditions and the tricky matter of human emotion can all be bypassed.

One such task humans have long been performing is making quick, snap judgments about another human´s physical state as they enter an establishment. Gas station and convenience store attendants, for example, have to be able to quickly ascertain the state of anyone who walks through their doors, especially late at night. For instance, a drunken 90s country music singer could potentially do plenty of harm to the store and other customers if he were to snap and act irrationally under the influence.

Since these attendants usually work alone late at night, it may be hard to make a quick judgment about an incoming customer, especially when this attendant is busy with something or someone else.

Now, a new form of thermal imaging could help these attendants and any other company for whom it is very important to pinpoint drunks.

Georgia Koukiou and Vassilis Anastassopoulos of the Electronics Laboratory, at University of Patras, Greece, are developing software which mimics human judgment by using some very simple and common tells associated with drunkenness.

Anyone who´s imbibed in a few too many knows that in addition to slurred speech and the thought that everyone is exponentially more attractive than they might be, another common side effect is rosy red, flushed cheeks and noses.

As we all know, alcohol dilates blood vessels on the surface of the skin, especially on the face. When this warm blood rushes to these blood vessels, warm, red spots are created on the face. A normal human being can usually take a look at a particularly hammered person and know straight away by looking at their face that they´re drunk. If the face didn´t give it away, of course, the nonsensical babble and wandering eyes would have probably given them away just as easily.

This thermal technology can pinpoint these hot areas, known as drunk regions, and alert the pertinent parties about the incoming drunk. Similar technology has been used to determine if a person had been infected with influenza or SARS.

Using a second algorithm, this new technology can also determine the thermal differences between a warm section of the face, such as the cheeks and nose and a cooler region, such as the forehead.

Working in tandem, this new technology can effectively scan a person´s face as they enter a building and, based on the amount of heat being thrown off by their mug, quickly determine if a person has been drinking moments earlier.

While this new technology may not seem very groundbreaking – after all, we´ve been judging drunk people for centuries – the speed at which it can pinpoint a drunk makes it pretty powerful. These new technologies, working together, can quickly scan multiple people at once to determine their current level of inebriation or sobriety.

Such technology can be incredibly useful to the aforementioned gas station and convenience store attendants who need to stop such a person from buying even more alcohol or potentially causing a scene.

Of course, as in the aforementioned case of the country music star, walking into such an establishment in “the altogether” is always a good indicator that the person might not be of sober mind.