A New Tool Could Make Fingerprint Analysis More Reliable

iStock
iStock

Contrary to what many would like to believe, fingerprint evidence isn't all that reliable. Partial prints and smudged prints can be difficult to read, and in the U.S. at least, fingerprint analysis is left to individual interpretation rather than a set of standards outlining what can be considered a match.

That could soon change, though. A statistical tool developed by a Department of Defense analyst is able to take two fingerprints and tell how probable it is that they came from the same person, according to Gizmodo. The software program, called FRStat, was used in a courtroom for the first time in February and is now available to any lab that wants to test it out.

Henry Swofford, of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at the Department of Defense, spent four years working with statisticians to develop the software. It works by comparing images of the small features of fingerprint minutiae (ridges) against "similarly marked, known matches" in a database. The software is then able to calculate the likelihood that the prints were left by the same individual. A paper outlining the statistical method was published in the journal Forensic Science International.

"I want to strengthen the foundations of our science," Swofford told Gizmodo. "I also want to make sure the evidence is presented in a way that the guilty people are convicted, and the innocent are exonerated."

A 2011 study found a false positive rate of 0.1 percent among fingerprint readings, and there have been numerous high-profile cases of wrongful convictions over the years. In one example, Brandon Mayfield, a lawyer from Oregon, was arrested in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombing after four experts agreed that his prints matched ones found on a bag at the scene. He was eventually released after that proved to be a mistake.

While FRStat isn't the first technology that attempts to make fingerprint analysis more accurate, it's the first one that has been developed for widespread, practical usage, according to Gizmodo.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Email Regrets? Android Users Can Now Unsend Their Gmails

iStock
iStock

Users of America Online might remember an intriguing feature of the once-dominant internet portal: The ability to unsend email messages, so long as they remained unread by the recipient. It was the virtual equivalent of reaching into a snail mail box and retrieving an ill-advised or premature correspondence. The feature probably saved more than a few relationships and jobs from suffering permanent damage.

Popular mail service Gmail officially introduced a similar feature in 2015 for its desktop version, allowing users to open their Settings and opting in on an "Undo" feature that would give them up to 30 seconds to unsend an email. An iOS function followed. Now, The Next Web reports that Android users can benefit from the same do-over.

Once you've composed a message and hit "send," the app will notify you that you've got 10 seconds to change your mind. Tapping "Undo" will prevent Gmail from completing delivery, a welcome feature on phones that are prone to sending emails before you've finished due to a clunky touch screen interface.

If you're an Android user and don't see the feature, try updating Gmail to the latest version. Users who have spotted the feature aren't sure if all versions will be updated or if it's a slow rollout, so you might want to keep checking the app.

Don't use Gmail at all? Outlook also allows limited recall of messages, depending on which email provider you're using, and may allow you to tack on an apology note if you've accidentally sent something to the wrong recipient. Yahoo! users on Android and iOS can unsend emails, but they've only got three seconds to have a change of heart.

[h/t The Next Web]

GIPHY Is Launching the World's First All-GIF Film Festival

iStock
iStock

Think you’re a GIF master? GIPHY is looking to showcase the best in extremely short films with what it calls the world’s first GIF-only film festival, according to It’s Nice That. The GIF database and search engine company is teaming up with Squarespace to launch a contest dedicated to finding the best GIF-makers in America—the GIPHY Film Fest.

To enter your work for consideration in the festival, you’ll need an 18-second-or-less, looping film that tells a “compelling, creative, entertaining, professional-grade story,” according to the contest details. U.S.-based GIF artists can enter up to three mini-films in each of five categories: Narrative, Stop-Motion, Animated, Experimental, and Wild Card/Other. The films can have music (as long as you have the rights to use it) or be silent. All that matters is that they're between one and 18 seconds long.

The grand prize winner will receive $10,000, a five-year subscription to Squarespace (to host that amazing GIF on your website), and the chance to guest-curate an official Spotify playlist. All entries will be judged by a panel of professionals from across several creative industries, including film, animation, illustration, and design.

The GIPHY Film Fest is not the first uber-short film festival in existence. In 2013 and 2014, back when Vine still existed (RIP), the Tribeca Film Festival held a competition each year to find the best six-second films—a time limit that will make 18 seconds feel practically feature length.

Enter GIPHY’s contest here before the entry window closes on September 27, 2018. The winner will be announced on November 8, during a special New York City screening of each of the top films in each category.

[h/t It’s Nice That]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios