Monday, 20 April 2020 15:27

NEC face recognition puts names to diggers' photos

NEC face recognition puts names to diggers' photos Australian War Memorial

NEC technology has identified some "lost diggers" from World War I.

The Australian War Memorial invited NEC to test images "unknown" soldiers photographed in 1916 by a husband and wife named Thuillier in their home village of Vignacourt, just behind the Western Front in Northern France.

Almost 4000 glass negatives were found a few years ago in the attic of the Thuillier's former farmhouse and became known as the "Vignacourt" or "Thuillier" Collection.

A significant proportion were purchased by a Australian philanthropist and donated to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, but at the time none of the people in the photos could be identified.

But a two-day project carried out by NEC Australia used the company's NeoFace Reveal face recognition technology to compare images from the Vignacourt collection with identified images from the Museum's "Darge" and "E Series" collections. Scores of potential matches with at least 80% certainty were found.

The first was Private Robert Deegan (pictured above), photographed by the Thuilliers in Vignacourt in 1916 and a year earlier at a recruitment station in country Victoria.

"NEC was honoured to be invited to join the AWM in this really worthwhile project," said NEC brand and customer experience executive general manager David Borean.

"All Australians are aware of our nation's proud military past, in particular our service in World War I and to be able to successfully uncover diggers whose identities remained a mystery for almost a century was not only exciting, but a great privilege.

"The dedicated research team at the AWM has spent many hours working to manually identify diggers from the Vignacourt collection over almost a decade against other collections it had in its archives.

"So to be able to help them identify previously unknown soldiers in a matter of hours was a thrill for us as an organisation and a testament to what NEC's modern solutions can do, potentially in the national interest."

Fitch Darge

Fitch Vignacourt

Private Fitch, photographed at the time of recruitment and again in Vignacourt. He was killed in action on 25 September 1917 at Polygon Wood, Belgium, aged just 21.  Australian War Memorial.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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