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International travelers could find themselves in the near future talking to a lie-detecting kiosk when they’re going through customs at an airport or border crossing. The same technology could be used to provide initial screening of refugees and asylum seekers at busy border crossings.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security funded development of the virtual border agent technology known as the Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time, or AVATAR, about six years ago and pilot tested it at the U.S.-Mexico border on travelers deemed a low risk. Since then, Canada and the European Union tested the robot-like kiosk that uses a virtual agent to ask travelers a series of questions.
“The technology has much broader applications potentially,” despite most of the funding for the original work coming primarily from the Defense or Homeland Security departments a decade ago, according to Aaron Elkins, one of the developers of the system and an assistant professor at the San Diego State University director of its Artificial Intelligence Lab. He added that AVATAR is not a commercial product yet but could be also used in human resources for screening.
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