Nowhere to hide: Cops' new lie detector outs criminal thoughts

  • 20/04/2017
Brain probe
The new system (not pictured) has up to 99 percent accuracy in tests (Getty)

Kiwi research into a futuristic lie detector, which reads a person's brainwaves, could make it impossible for criminals to hide their thoughts from police.

That's according to research led by the University of Canterbury and backed by the NZ Law Foundation, in which the technology was put through a year-long pilot study aimed at making it ready for use by local police.

Known as brain fingerprinting or forensic brainwave analysis, it measures involuntary responses in the brain to reveal whether a person recognises information they have just seen or heard.

With a reported 96-99 percent accuracy level from tests so far, researchers say the technology could be used in criminal investigations, civil lawsuits, employment disputes, counter-terrorism and drug enforcement.

Yet, despite its "exciting" potential, there is still more work needed in New Zealand to make it useful, project co-leader Professor Robin Palmer said on Thursday.

"The experiment results provide a solid platform for further research into the goal of applying it in police investigations and the New Zealand legal system," he said.

The technology has already been used successfully in tests and court cases in the United States to help prove both guilt and innocence and is difficult to manipulate, researchers said.

The New Zealand pilot study involved using an electroencephalography (EEG) machine to measure the brainwave responses of test subjects.

Those being tested selected pre-loaded images, sentences and phrases on a computer screen.

The tester was then able to watch the brainwaves generated by their interpretation of what they had seen or heard to establish if the person had knowledge of the information.