Aug. 1, 2016

Exploring social biometrics

Researchers at UCalgary are studying how our online social traits can identify us as certainly as our facial expressions and the way we walk.

Researchers at the University of Calgary are exploring how the mix of social biometrics and cognitive intelligence is changing the way we perceive our world.

Professor Marina Gavrilova, Biometric Technologies Laboratory Head in the Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Science, says the sheer volume of information being shared through social networks, online communities, games, software development tools, emails, blogs and more is enormous.

While facial expressions can be one way to study an individual’s emotions, behaviour and actions, she says – like pose, gait and hand gestures – can be equally qualified to provide clues on emotional states or developing dynamics in a group.

Gavrilova is working on human gait activity recognition using motion sensing, among other projects. Part of her research investigates new ways of how the relationships between joints in the human body can help with identifying a person – looking at clues such as whether they suffered any fractures or personal injuries in the past.

“Human social, behavioural and even cognitive traits are becoming more and more visible through the interlinking of heterogeneous communications in online and off-line settings,” says Gavrilova, who was a keynote speaker this year at the 29th International Conference on Computer Animation and Social Agents at the University of Geneva.

“This phenomenon has given rise to a new concept – social biometrics – which attempts to understand and extrapolate trends related to all aspects of human social interactions.”

Already, the identity of Twitter users can be determined through social networks analysis and the gender of Flickr users can be recognized based on human aesthetic preferences, she says. 


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Dr. Marina Gavrilova, PhD, is an associate professor in the University of Calgary’s Department of Computer Science. Her research interests lie in the areas of machine intelligence, biometric recognition, image processing and GIS. Learn more about Marina's story here.​

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