Florida police began using appearance prediction technology in the case of a stalker nicknamed "The Serial Creeper." By using the DNA left behind the the crime scenes, scientists at Parabon NanoLabs in Reston, VA, were able to use genetic clues like hair color, eye color, facial features, and ancestry to digitally create the criminal's face. It costs about $4,500 for this analysis to be done.
These images, of course, are not completely accurate because there are so many genetic factors that influence facial appearance. While it is possible to access the genetic information to predict hair color, scientists are not yet able to predict things like nose width or exact height. Also, traits like hair color can easily be changed. For this reason, many researchers believe that this kind of prediction technology isn't ready to be used in criminal investigations quite yet.
Once this technology becomes more advanced and we can predict height and bone structure features more accurately, investigators will be able to identify suspects with greater confidence While criminals can change their appearance, traits like ethnicity or face shape cannot be altered. For now, this technology is great for eliminating suspects. For example, if they know the criminal has blond hair, they would be able to rule out any suspect with red, brown, or black hair.
How did this technology come about? In 2012, Manfred Kayser, a geneticist at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, along with his colleagues used the DNA and 2D/3D images of about 10,000 participants to analyze which genes are responsible for influencing face shape. The bridge of the nose seemed to have a response to the PAX3 gene. Although this discovery was a step in the right direction, there is still so much more to be discovered on face shape alone.
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