Say “Cheese!” New technique can bust you for being hammered from an infrared pic

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Think you can hide your drunkenness with a stick of gum or some activated charcoal? Think again. Thanks to a new technique developed by pair of physics professors, cops might not need a breathalyzer to tell if you’re inebriated anymore — all they’d need is an infrared photo of your face.

You’re safe for now, though. The technology isn’t out on the streets quite yet, but according to a recently-published study, it’s totally possible to determine whether somebody is drunk by examining their face with thermal cameras.

Researchers Georgia Koukiou and Vassilis Anastassopoulos took thermal photos of the faces of 41 people before and after they knocked back a few, then studied the images to see what had changed. The differences aren’t visible to the naked eye — but with the right algorithm, a computer can spot them in seconds.


Koukiou and Anastassopoulos discovered that your face (particularly your nose and forehead) tends to change its thermal behavior after you’ve had a few drinks. In most cases, this change is significant enough that the algorithm can pick up on it when presented with a photo.

The crazy thing is that it doesn’t necessarily need to see your “before” picture either. In a second trial, the researchers tested the algorithm on “unknown persons” — i.e. people whom they hadn’t previously photographed. Amazingly, even without comparison pictures of the subjects when sober, the algorithm was able to detect drunkenness with 90 percent accuracy.

This tech isn’t quite ready for prime time, but the researchers have suggested that, in the future, this could help police pinpoint hooligans who might start trouble, or could even be installed in cars and heavy machinery to prevent drunk driving.