Tell-Tale Hearts?

Who are you? Are you defined by what you think or what you were dealt at birth? Corporate America is betting on the latter. Biometrics is science's authentication of identity through unique body markers. Identity theft costs billions every year, and the latest innovations are meant to seriously minimize those losses. In years to come, passwords may very well become passé.

Break out that Visine and stare straight ahead after plugging in a bankcard. On May 13, Bank United of Texas installed on ATMs at three branches iris scanners provided by Sensar Incorporated (sensar.com) and developed by IriScan (iriscan.com). No two irises are alike— not even among identical twins— and this method is far superior to the more common retinal scans. The bank's customers, the first in the U.S. to try out the technology at ATMs, reportedly are "pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy it is to enroll and to make transactions," says Vern Stockton, director of public relations.

Dactyloscopy, as fingerprinting used to be known, was originally received with skepticism by a society still coming to terms with Darwinism. In the early 20th century, critics were silenced by its emergence as a standard of crime scene investigations. It has grown from its early days as the base of biometrics to include a huge and diverse array of applications. To deter smuggling and terrorism, Chicago's Department of Aviation recently finished a test at O'Hare International Airport that required cargo truck drivers to both swipe a smart ID card embedded with their fingerprint data and run their thumbs through a reader. Nationally, corporations are using PCs equipped with fingerprint readers, which make passwords obsolete (identicator.com).

Voices don't carry the same kind of security. A test of a Keyware Technologies voice verification system proved unsuccessful— it did not recognize the words given in the attempts. But others aren't deterred— Chase Manhattan Bank engages a voice recognition system for access to its banking facilities.

Faces may not be able to launch a thousand ships— yet— but they can at least cash a check. Miros's Face Recognition technology (miros.com) has served Mr. Payroll kiosks in 120 installations around the country for two years and even boasts an AI component that learns to respond to aging and changing facial expressions.

(machineage@villagevoice.com)

 
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