Lend a hand to research, literally

A photograph of a person's hand, with identifying features of the hand marked with digital illustrations

The team behind H-Unique - a pioneering hand identification research project - urgently need help from students and staff to build a ‘control’ database of images. By taking part, you could help protect some of the most vulnerable people in society.

H-Unique is a programme of research which aims to prove how unique our hands are. The project arose directly from the research of Professor Dame Sue Black in the forensic identification of individuals from images of their hands in child abuse cases.

Only a few forensic experts can perform this work, which limits how many cases can be solved and offenders brought to justice.

H-Unique researchers are building the world’s largest database of hand images and developing ways of teaching computers to automatically identify and extract anatomical detail from photographs of hands. This will enable them to create new digital tools which could help police link suspects of serious crime to evidence images and video footage, even where only their hands are visible.

To help to develop and evaluate the project’s methodology, researchers are building a ‘control’ database of extremely high-resolution photographs taken under controlled lighting conditions. This is a crucial step in ensuring the overall success of the project.

Get involved

The H-Unique team are urgently seeking student and staff volunteers who are willing to have their hands photographed for the project’s control database.

To get involved and contribute to cutting-edge research, and potentially help protect some of the most vulnerable people in society, simply:

  • Book an appointment via the H-Unique website
  • Go to Infolab21, room C36 at the time of your appointment
  • Fill in a short questionnaire and have your hands photographed by a member of the research team

It only takes a few minutes to contribute.

All contributions are stored anonymously. The images are kept by the research team on secure servers at Lancaster University, not shared with any external agencies and will be destroyed at the end of the research project.

If you have already contributed to the project via the H-Unique webapp using your phone, you can still contribute to this set but only if you have your original reference code so the research team can match the two contributions.

About H-Unique

H-Unique is a five year, €2.5m programme of research that aims to identify which combinations of hand features form the most unique identifying biometrics, and to train computers to analyse features of hands in images. This will ultimately allow many more cases of child abuse to be investigated and reduce the need for investigators to be exposed to such images.

It is an interdisciplinary project, supported by anatomists, anthropologists, geneticists, bioinformaticians, image analysts and computer scientists from Lancaster University, St John’s College Oxford and the University of Dundee.

To find out more, visit the H-Unique website.

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