Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Robots: helping to improve care of the elderly

Allowing robots to help care for the elderly may seem cold and lacking in the human touch, but in Japanese media, robots are depicted as helpful and friendly. Many Japanese view them positively. With an aging population, over 1 in 4 are at least 65 years old, and a dwindling work force, Japan needs creative solutions. Lessons learned from Japan’s experience will benefit other countries with aging populations, including the US.

While robots will never replace human caregivers, they help meet a variety of needs. They can be companionable, such as Paro, the furry white seal that makes seal cries when petted. They can aid the disabled, such as Tree, an upright robot that crawls the floor showing a senior where to place the next step and offering balance support. They also help staff, such as HAL (Hybrid Assisted Limb) which provides back support and powered assistance when lifting people.

Robots are not cheap. For example, Paro the robot seal took over 10 years to develop and received over $20 million in government support. It currently costs 400,000 yen ($3,800 USD). Most facilities using robots have relied on local and central government subsidies.

At Tokyo’s Shin-tomi nursing home, using robots hasn’t reduced personnel costs or working hours, but they have made the work environment safer, and boosted the morale of both staff and residents, making them feel supported.

The global market for robots for the elderly and disabled is currently small ($19.2 million in 2016), and made up mostly of Japanese manufacturers. Future market growth will be exponential: demand in Japan alone is expected to reach $3.8 billion by 2035, when about 1/3 of Japan’s population will be 65 or older.

Japan also hopes to supply a lucrative export industry to places such as Germany, China, Italy and other countries facing aging populations.

How robots could help care for Japan's aging population

Malcolm Foster for Independent, UK, April 9, 2018. Photography by Kim Kyung-Hoon. 

Accurate Biometrics

Practical solutions for fingerprint collection and processing.

Friday, May 18, 2018

New DNA test predicts hair, eye and now skin color

Photo of artistic composite of faces
Photo Credit: Science Daily

An international team of scientists has created a new DNA tool that is able to predict skin pigment color as well as hair and eye color from a DNA sample of low quantity and low quality, as might be found at a crime scene or in archeological remains.

Previous DNA tests have had accuracy predicting hair and eye color. The new web tool, the HIrisPlex-S DNA test system, can profile skin pigment to 5 color types: very pale, pale, intermediate, dark, and dark to black. The testing cannot be used to identify race or ethnicity, but more shades of color similar to color swatches.

The tool could be helpful to law enforcement forensics because it’s designed to be used when standard forensic profiling isn’t helpful — when there’s no reference DNA to use for comparison. Eyewitness accounts usually mention hair and skin color. Being able to test hair and skin color from DNA will allow law enforcement to be more objective about witness descriptions.

The team was led by scientists from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) School of Science and Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam, Netherlands. The team is currently offering use of the tool online, free of charge.

Forensics: New tool predicts eye, hair and skin color from a DNA sample of an unidentified individual

Science Daily, May 14, 2018

How Accurately Can Scientists Reconstruct A Person’s Face From DNA?

IUPUI School of Science, May 14 2018

Accurate Biometrics

Practical solutions for fingerprint collection and processing.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Fingerprint drug testing technology leaps forward

Photo of enlarged fingerprint detail
Photo Credit:

Lab testing with paper spray mass spectrometry is able to analyze and detect chemicals left behind in fingerprints. Traces of sweat left behind in the ridges of fingerprints can include traces of whatever substances the fingers have touched. Traces of drugs have been found to be surprisingly common in fingerprints of the general population.

In testing by the University of Surrey, with partners from the Netherlands Forensic Institute and Intelligent Fingerprinting, 13% of verified non-drug users tested were found to traces of cocaine in their fingerprints! The testing methodology is so sensitive (to the tens of pictograms, or 0.00000000001g) that it can detect trace amounts of cocaine transferred from a banknote or other contaminated surface. A drug user would have a much higher (100X or more) amount of cocaine in their fingerprint residue, so the test can tell drug users and non-users apart.

An exciting possibility for the future of medical testing is the modification of fingerprint testing technology to detect therapeutic drugs. New fingerprint testing can even detect drugs — prescription or otherwise — that a person has ingested. For patients being treated for epilepsy, diabetes, heart conditions or psychosis, fingerprint testing would be an easy and convenient way to test whether prescribed drugs were being take regularly and absorbed properly.

Intelligent Fingerprinting (Cambridge, UK) has developed the world’s first portable fingerprint-based drug detection system. It works using antibodies — similar to a home pregnancy test — to test for specific classes of drugs such as opiates, amphetamines, cocaine and THC (marijuana). The portable fingerprint testing device is currently being used in drug treatment centers, and is being pilot tested by medical examiners in the UK to determine the cause of death.

The company believes the portable test will become very popular in law enforcement — police, probation, prisons, and likely, eventually, roadside testing. Intelligent Fingerprinting  is now marketing the portable fingerprint test in the US and Canada. The popularity and wide spread growth of this type of testing is raising privacy and consent issues. Technology moves fast, and thoughtful ethical and legal resolutions evolve slowly.

The Hidden Data in Your Fingertips

By Melanie Bailey, April 27, 2018, for The Conversation US, published on

First large-scale study of cocaine users leads to breakthrough in drug testing

Published Sept. 21, 2017, by the University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, UK 

Fingerprint Scanning Technology Leaps Forward, But to What End?

By Rod McCullom, April 11,2018,  for

Accurate Biometrics

Practical solutions for fingerprint collection and processing.