By Alicia Cunningham | Apr 10, 2016
Employees: 16: 8 in Utah, 8 worldwide
Converus, a company that specializes in lie detection products, started as an experiment at the University of Utah.
“There were educational psychology professors who thought they could detect if someone was being deceptive based on their eye behavior,” says Ben Stout, Chief Technology Officer of Converus.
“They did a series of experiments over a ten-year period, starting in the early 2000s, and they came up with a method of accurately telling if people were deceptive or not by their eye behavior. We have commercialized this invention, called EyeDetect, and since 2014 Converus has been selling this new lie detection method worldwide — starting in Spanish Latin America,” Stout says.
According to Stout, a lie creates stress in the body and stress manifests itself through involuntary changes in pupil diameter, eye movement, eye blinks and fixation. An infrared camera captures this data to compute whether or not a subject is being deceptive.
Stout believes that the product is superior to the traditional polygraph because it does not create false readings based on nervous personalities or a subject that might overthink a question. “What we measure in the eye is not tied to an emotional response,” he says.
Converus takes a standard, off-the-shelf computer, and pairs it with a highly precise, German-made infrared camera. “The infrared camera takes up to 60 photos a second,” Stout explains. The entire package is assembled in Lehi, Utah and distributed from the Utah facility directly to the customer.
“Customers buy the EyeDetect station, and then then buy licenses to run tests,” says Stout.
Operating in Utah has the benefit of allowing Converus to stay close to its research and science team. “They are not employees, per se,” explains Stout, “but they are available to run studies when we need things figured out. We just barely released a version of our software in Arabic, and they were able to help us get that version ready for the market.” Being near an international airport is also convenient as Converus executives travel extensively, mostly to Central and South America.
EyeDetect is ideal for employers who wish to screen potential employees, as well as for periodically screening current employees. “Our customers will buy an EyeDetect station and a block of licenses, or they’ll have one of our service providers administer the tests. EyeDetect is faster and more cost effective than a traditional polygraph, but matches the highest accuracy rate of a polygraph. It’s also 100 percent nonintrusive — nothing to hook up to the test subject.”
Challenges: Acceptance of new technology. Stout recognizes that people are comfortable with the traditional polygraph and are wary of trying a new product. “We try to get them to understand that our product has been peer-reviewed and proven to work.” One demonstration of accuracy is the numbers test. New customers are asked to choose a number, between one and ten, in their mind. “We then ask them to lie about the number they picked. After a ten-minute test, EyeDetect figures out their number.” Stout claims EyeDetect gets the number right 97 percent of the time. “This is a simple topic,” he concedes, “but it shows that the technology works.”
Opportunities: Looking for more contacts within federal and state governments. “We made many inroads last year,” Stout says. “We have already done well in Mexico, Central and South America, where many companies and some governments are using our technology. Our next goal is to start penetrating the U.S. market."
Needs: Sympathetic laws within the U.S. “Federal law prohibits the use of lie detectors for pre-employment purposes in private companies, and state laws regulate who can run a lie detection test and what constitutes a lie detector test,” Stout says. Converus is researching federal and state laws and asking for changes so their product can be legally used.