Sunday, April 26, 2015

A DNA-Generated Face

A 23andMe mailing mentions that the police are now using suspect facial profiles generated from scene-of-crime DNA. Remarkable. Only a small number of alleles bearing on likeness have been identified to date, but genetics is obviously central. Just think of identical twins, the clue is in the name.

Some of the DNA facial reconstructions put together by researchers seem quite accurate; others not so much (see article).

One of the better ones? Ms. Spangler’s ancestry is half Korean and half northern European. Top right image is from the DNA; bottom right, was adjusted for age, weight and height.

The police use of this technology seems at present to be grasping at straws. The picture of a suspect below was characterised by one critic as showing simply a 'generic young black man'. Since the perpetrator has not yet been caught, however, we have no idea as to its accuracy.

Sketch of a possible suspect based on DNA left at the crime scene

However, like most technologies that we know in principle will work, this is going to be big.

Predictions using a DNA analysis tool compared with photos of the actual people

Just to recap, here's the current state of the art (above). They seem not too bad to me, although they probably chose their best ones for this publicity shot.

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