A new project from Irish agency Rothco set out to find the truth behind a legendary escape story from Alcatraz—and claims to have solved it.
Accenture Interactive-owned Rothco teamed up with A.I. specialist company Identv to confirm the identities of two Alcatraz prison escapees depicted in a 1975 photo. Frank Morris, along with brothers John and Clarence Anglin, were made famous by Clint Eastwood in the 1979 film "Escape from Alcatraz," but were assumed to have drowned after fleeing the famous California prison. However, in 2015, evidence surfaced of a soft, grainy, old photo taken by a family friend of the Anglin Brothers allegedly living in Brazil in 1975—13 years after their supposed drowning.
Until now, technology wasn't available to verify if the photo really was of the Anglins, but now A.I. has been used to unlock the hidden data in the printed photo. Identv used a facial matching system based on a type of machine learning algorithm called a deep neural network.
"We start with what is called a training process, where we feed the algorithm many images of a single person's face along with many images of different people," said Mark Hughes, Chief AI Scientist of Identv, in a statement. “We repeat this process millions of times over and use mathematical models optimized during the training phase to learn how to differentiate one person's face from another.”
He added that once they have that "trained" model, it allows the team to create a sort of mathematical, "facial fingerprint" that is extremely discriminative—it can be compared to other such "fingerprints" in the database in the way that modern-day police fingerprint matching systems work. "Identv has developed techniques to carry out this matching process in tens of milliseconds over millions of faces," he said.
“'The Long Shot’ is a novel example of successfully applying the creative knowledge and digital tools of today to a hidden piece of the past, unlocking newfound stories and opportunities," added Alan Kelly, chief creative officer at Rothco. "Technology is advancing at such a rate it can leave you a little dizzy and, short of obtaining DNA proof, there will always be a little room for mystery. But as far as technology is concerned—the prisoners made it.”