Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Technology

Your Bare Feet Betray You, Scientists Say. So Don't Take Off Your Shoes.

DiscoblogBy Veronique GreenwoodSeptember 19, 2011 9:34 PM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

barefoot.jpg

That's walking dangerously---better slip on your flip-flops to avoid the cops.

Your walk is surprisingly distinctive, and it's not just the way you waggle your fanny: it's how your feet touch the ground. Just a few steps is enough for a program to recognize you 99% of the time, report scientists who had more than a hundred people leave their prints on sensors. The goal? Identifying people through carpet, of course. In case you can't get to their fingerprints or retinas and so on. The team had their subjects stroll for five steps and got their software observe how people distributed their weight over the soles of their feet. Once the software had been trained, it was able to link a set of prints to the correct individual 99.6% of the time. This in and of itself isn't a shocker: Many studies have shown that people's walks are good identifiers. Using camera arrays or sensors on the floor, previous researchers have trained programs to recognize individuals up to 99% of the time. But those studies never involved more than 10 or 11 people, so it wasn't clear whether this level of accuracy was possible with a larger population. But there is one rather large fly in the ointment. This only works with no shoes on.And not only that, the results might change if people were walking faster or slower or were tired or stressed. Like when they're in an airport, or on the run from the FBI. Since one of the proposed applications for this work is identifying people "discreetly" in "security settings," you've got to wonder how they'd plan to get people to take off their shoes and walk naturally. Maybe you could use it to identify that secret yogi who's been creeping into your studio after hours. Five steps across the perfectly sprung hardwood floor and bam---you nab them mid-vinyasa. Reference: Pataky et al. Gait recognition: highly unique dynamic plantar pressure patterns among 104 individuals

. Published online before print September 7, 2011, doi: 10.1098/​rsif.2011.0430 J. R. Soc. Interface [via New Scientist

]

Image courtesy of Unlisted Sightings / flickr

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In