What is AVATAR?
The creators of AVATAR say that by utilizing artificial intelligence and non-invasive sensor technologies, the tool is able to flag suspicious or anomalous behavior for further investigation by trained human agents. The system makes this determination by sifting through mountains of data, which includes: voice, eye, facial, and posture. The data is collected from cameras and other non-invasive sensors which are integrated into the kiosk. The designers of the system believe that, by automating interviews, document/biometric collection, and screening tasks, the tool could enhance DHS and CBP operations by freeing up personnel for other mission-critical tasks.
CBP Field Tests
Throughout the tests, a CBP Officer was present to monitor the avatar-administered interviews. The interviews consisted of 20 questions, which were conducted and recorded by the kiosk. The attending officers would see the results of this interview on a tablet which connected with the AVATAR system. Officers are provided a color-coded record of the interaction with normal responses coded as green and anomalous or suspicious behaviors coded as red. Throughout the course of the pilot, the system conducted over 250 interviews. The team collected valuable data on the systems limitations for further improvement. These limitations include the system’s ability to analyze speech from interviewees speaking before the AVATAR completed its question, as well as concerns regarding ambient noise.
The initial pilot at Nogales gave the researchers a lot of data that they have since incorporated into the updates for the AVATAR system, including better understanding of additional languages (primarily Spanish), and faster response recording. Since the pilot, the system’s deception detection rate is estimated to have an accuracy between 60% to 75% on average, which is better than the human rate of 54% to 60%. Aaron Elkins has also moved the project from the University of Arizona to the San Diego State University, where he accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in 2016. He is currently developing a new lab for further research and development of the AVATAR tool at the University.