New equipment called the "AVATAR kiosk" is being used to improve security at the U.S.-Mexican border under a federally sponsored program at the University of Arizona.
A "non-invasive automated interviewing system used in credibility assessment" - that is, determining if a person is telling the truth in responding to agents at the border - has gone into its testing phase at the Nogales crossing.
The AVATAR kiosk is a project of National Center for Border Security and Immigration, a UA-based project funded by the Department of Homeland Security.
Center Director Elyse Golob says the goal of AVATAR is to give officers a better idea about whom to question further in the traffic at the port of entry.
She says the system is the result of 30 years worth of UA research.
"With the AVATAR we've examined over 200 different cues of deception and tested out different sensors that measure if a person is telling a lie or not," Golob says. "We've taken the most promising sensors and embedded them in a kiosk. (It) kind of looks like an ATM with a graphic interface of a custom's officer on there."
Golob says the system asks would-be entrants simple questions such as the purpose of their travels and plans for the visit.
Eventually such a system could be used to aid officers seeing hundreds of people every day with just a few minutes to determine if anyone should be questioned further.
Golob says the system now being tested is probably at least a couple of years from widespread use.