The images on Eduardo Fidalgo’s computer show mundane scenes – a sofa scattered with pillows, a folded duvet on a bed, some children’s toys strewn across a floor. They depict views most of us would see around our own homes.
But these rather ordinary pictures are helping to build a new weapon in the fight against crime. Fidalgo and his colleagues are using the images to train a machine to spot clues in crime scene photographs.
When police officers visit a crime scene or a suspect’s home, they are often confronted with an overwhelming amount of visual information. And hidden amongst the everyday objects they find at these sites may be vital pieces of evidence that could link someone to a crime.
Fidalgo, a computer scientist at the University of Leon in north-west Spain, and his team have been working with the Spanish National Cybersecurity Insitute INCIBE to develop an evidence recognising tool that uses artificial intelligence to identify objects in police photographs – and to search for links with other crimes. Take, for example, a bedroom where abuse has reportedly taken place. Officers routinely take photographs of such locations, capturing key information in the process.