CBP is installing an updated version of the University of Arizona’s kiosk …to determine its ability to help enroll applicants in its Trusted Traveler programs at the Mexican border.
The programs, also available for airline passengers, were created after 9/11 at various ports of entry into the U.S. to expedite preapproved, low-risk travelers through dedicated lanes and kiosks. All Trusted Traveler applicants must voluntarily undergo a background check against criminal, law-enforcement, customs, immigration, agriculture and terrorist databases. The process also includes biometric fingerprint checks and an interview with a CBP officer.
In Nogales, human CBP officers monitor the avatar-administered pilot-test interviews, which provide them with automated feedback uploaded wirelessly to an iPad tablet that these officers can use to conduct follow-up interviews. Exchanges that the avatar flags as questionable and worthy of follow-up interrogation—using its speech recognition and voice anomaly–detection software—are color coded green, yellow or red to highlight the potential severity of questionable responses.
Everyone who applies for Trusted Traveler status at Nogales ends up speaking with an officer after her or his avatar interview. One of CBP’s goals is to implement several kiosks that can administer preliminary interviews that save time by making the follow-up, face-to-face interviews more efficient.
The kiosk is not designed to indicate that an interviewee is lying or to diagnose that person’s intent, says Aaron Elkins, a University of Arizona postdoctoral researcher in the Management Information Systems department who helped develop the kiosk. Instead the kiosk analyzes an interviewee’s voice for anomalies that may prompt a border officer to probe deeper into a particular response. Anomaly detection is based on vocal characteristics—changes in factors such as rate, volume, pitch and intonation—that may be related to different emotional, arousal and cognitive states.
An inflection in one’s voice may indicate uncertainty, or a pause might imply that an interviewee may have been devising a deceptive answer, Elkins says. The kiosk’s speech recognition software monitors the content of an interviewee’s answers and can flag a response indicating when, for example, a person acknowledges having a criminal record.