Purdue prof takes up close look at Manti Te'o's expressions

Purdue professor Dr. Chris Kowal uses facial recognition software to examine Manti Te'o's expressions.
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A Purdue expert is looking Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o right in the eye to search for the truth behind his girlfriend hoax.

Was he tricked? Te'o talked on Katie Couric's show, but is he talking truthfully?

The night before his alleged hoaxer sits down for his own TV interview with Dr. Phil McGraw, a Purdue researcher runs Te'o through the digital wringer.

"These are 491 points on his face," says Dr. Chris Kowal, as he points to an on-screen image of the Notre Dame player.

A digital mesh, like a net, covers his face. It's from digital recognition software and it will measure Te'o's micro-reactions as he answers and responds to Couric's questions.

Te'o says he was pranked - he honestly thought he was in a serious Internet relationship with a woman he's never met and who we now know never existed.

Until MTV's "Catfish" show, which helps victims track down their unseen online loves, Te'o's story may have seemed fishy.

"I looked at other interviews he's done, talking about football games," Kowal said.

He took that information and constructed a baseline of Te'o's facial expressions and emotions, things that can translate into a kind of truth detector. Then, analyzing the Katie Couric interview, he says, "I think that he was being extremely truthful."

Kowal says he saw someone who was the victim of a hoax. He says the software picked up specific reactions on Te'o's face. It's all in those so-called micro-expressions.

"He displayed such anger and sadness which we would expect to see in someone who was a victim," he said.

In another clip from the interview, Kowal says, "he's pleading with Katie 'to put yourself in my situation.' There's a peak there - it's really quick - that shows happiness."

A sign of openness.

"When you say to somebody, 'Please just see it from my point of view,' you tend to have a natural response," said Kowal.

But he found definite deception by Te'o on another clip. A news conference two days after Te'o now admits learning it was all a hoax. But he was still standing with his girlfriend story.

"You see intense anger. There's a disgusting emotion that comes up a couple times while he was telling a lie. We're seeing something here that's just not right," Kowal said.

He says that look of disgust, picked up by the facial recognition software, may be Manti Te'o's disgust with himself for telling that cover up story.

Dr. Phil's two-part interview with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo airs Thursday and Friday at 4 p.m. on Channel 13.

Kowal uses the facial recognition software to help sales professionals analyze their performance. Eyewitness News spoke with him during the recent presidential campaign, where he used it to decipher the debates between President Barack Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney.

Read more about Dr. Kowal's work