Border security equipped to spots lies

Posted at 6:59 PM, Nov 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-24 21:59:14-05

New technology could be coming to the border, promising to sniff out people who shouldn't be crossing.

Meet Avitar, the futuristic machine that can tell when you're lying. It could be coming to an airport or border near you.

San Diego State University assistant professor Aaron Elkins is on the team getting it ready.

“While some people are expert at controlling things like their voice or their posture, they can't control everything all the time, across the interaction,” Elkins said, noting things like pupil dilation.

Avitar - short for Automated Virtual Agent Truth Assessments Realtime - has a variety of sensors inside to monitor all sorts of behaviors. The machine won't let someone it finds suspicious pass - by referring him or her to a human border patrol or airport agent to make the final call. 

”During the interview the AI is actually modifying the questions, its approach to basically separate the behavioral differences you would expect scientifically between liars and truth tellers,” Elkins said.

Elkins says people initially were able to trick Avitar, but now they've adapted the machine to account for those behaviors

The machine is still in testing. Elkins says the U.S. department of homeland security,  Frontex - the European Union's equivalent - and Canadian border agents are participating.

It could be active in a year.

Elkins says people who give it a try are generally receptive.

“They said ok this is kind of creepy, but then when they stepped up to it and talked to it they realized it felt more natural than even using any other kiosk," Elkins said.

And then kept moving on their journey, if Avitar allowed it.