A 57-year old mystery involving escapees from the notorious Alcatraz Penitentiary in San Francisco in 1962 has been solved by Irish agency Rothco | Accenture Interactive using artificial intelligence (AI).
Working alongside the IDentTV, a California-based firm specialising a range of AI-based services to a number of industries, including advertising, Rothco set out to confirm the identities of two Alcatraz prison escapees depicted in a 1975 photo.
Thirty-six people are known to have attempted escape from Alcatraz but the commonly-held belief is that none were successful. On the night of June 11, 1962, three prisoners — Frank Morris, along with brothers John and Clarence Anglin — broke out of their cells and made it to the shoreline of Alcatraz island. The trio, made famous by Clint Eastwood in the 1979 film Escape from Alcatraz, used sharpened spoons to bore through the prison walls and left papier-maché dummies in their beds. They are assumed to have drowned as they fled the island on a raft constructed from 50 inflated raincoats.
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. But the technology has not been available to confirm that the men in the photo are the actual escaped prisoners until now.
In an attempt to solve the mystery, Rothco worked with IDentTV to tell the story of “The Long Shot” by bringing new life to a forgotten mystery by unlocking the hidden data in the printed photo using a facial matching system based on a type of machine learning algorithm called a deep neural network.
According to Mark Hughes, chief AI scientist, IDenTV: “In the case of ‘The Long Shot’, 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. 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.”
Hughes continues: “Once we have a model trained, it provides us with the ability to generate a mathematical fingerprint describing in detail the visual aspects of somebody’s face. These facial fingerprints are highly discriminative. We can then compare this facial fingerprint to other fingerprints we have in a database to generate a match, similar to how today’s police fingerprint matching system works. IDentTV has developed techniques to carry out this matching process in tens of milliseconds over millions of faces.”
Rothco Chief Creative Officer Alan Kelly, said: Alan Kelly, CCO at Rothco: “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. 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.”