Scientists Building Security Cameras That Can “See” Crimes Before They Happen

Remember those weird floating “precog” psychics in the movie Minority Report? They could foresee crimes before they even happened, allowing law enforcement to prevent them from ever becoming a reality. While that kind of sci-fi foreknowledge will almost certainly never exist, scientists are working on an eerily similar system that uses cameras and artificial intelligence — a system that they hope will be able to “see” crimes before they even occur.

The research is being done by a group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University with funding by the US government. What they’re building is a surveillance camera that can do what’s called “activity forecasting”, which aims to predict what humans will do in the future.

Declan McCullagh over at CNET recently spoke to scientists behind the effort, and writes,

[Researcher Alessandro] Oltramari and fellow researcher Christian Lebiere say automatic video surveillance can monitor camera feeds for suspicious activities like someone at an airport or bus station abandoning a bag for more than a few minutes. “In this specific case, the goal for our system would have been to detect the anomalous behavior,” Oltramari says.

Think of it as a much, much smarter version of a red light camera: the unblinking eye of computer software that monitors dozens or even thousands of security camera feeds could catch illicit activities that human operators […] would miss.

The camera will be able to distinguish humans from their surroundings, and then predict the most likely physical trajectories the individuals will take. When the camera decides that a person is about to do something that raises a red flag, the system would notify security personnel to stop the action from happening.

It’s a bit — okay, more than a bit — disconcerting, but imagine the impact this kind of technology could have on certain types of photography…

(via Kris Kitani via CNET)

Image credits: Photo illustration based on movie still by Dreamworks/20th Century Fox, research illustrations by Carnegie Mellon University

  • Craig

    The problem with this (besides the creepiness of it) is if you stop a crime before it happens you can’t arrest the would be criminal, leaving them to go commit crimes somewhere els…

  • fuzzywuzzy

    I think we are quickly arriving at a point where we need to institute some sort of technology ethics committee that weighs the benefits of a proposed usage against the implications it will have on civil rights … and it needs to be highly biased towards protection of civil rights.

    There are just too many people jumping on the bandwagon of using technology against the public and I can see this spiraling out of control if we don’t get a handle on it.

  • Dikaiosune01

    Do you think these things will be smarter than your average security guard that tries to arrest photographers? (RE: Security Guard tackles and arrest young photographer)

  • 11

    Just like cockroaches are now stronger and immune to many old pesticides, the criminals will get more smarter over time.. in the future, the most superior mind will be criminal in nature.

  • fahrertuer

    “It’s a bit — okay, more than a bit — disconcerting, but imagine the
    impact this kind of technology could have on certain types of
    Yeah. I can already see street togs being harassed for anomalous behavior (compared to the rest of the sheeple on the street) being detected…

  • fahrertuer

    Oh, that’s no problem at all.

    Some new laws and creative prosecutors will take care of that

  • JosephRT

    And the “good guys” also will evolve out of their lizard brains and begin to catch up to the criminal super race…

  • Dave

    You know what happens when you lose your job at the office, then you lose your job at the restaurant as a waiter, THEN you lose your job bagging groceries right? You become a security guard. That explains everything.

  • 9inchnail

    Well, if you have cameras everywhere, he can’t do it somewhere else because he’ll be stopped there, too.

    I thinks, it’s not really about preventing a crime, it’s more about being there sooner when it happens. If you see someone walking towards another person in an aggressive manner, you can alert security and they might be there before the victim gets seriously injured or at least the fleeing attacker will have less of a head-start and you might catch him.

  • 9inchnail

    This is not really new, I’ve seen something like this being in development years ago on TV. People have a herd/swarm-mentality and any difference in behavior is suspicious.

    With face recognition, governments will be able to create profiles of every person. They can analyze where they go in the morning, where they usually hang out after work, where they buy their groceries and so on. If some day, you deviate from your routine, you might find yourself on a watch list. You don’t get arrested just because you drink your morning coffee somewhere else but they’ll keep an eye on you for a while.

    Why? Because they can. Technology has come far enough to monitor everyone in public places without much cost.

  • Florentin Ionita

    THIS IS JUST ANOTHER STEP TOWARDS FULL CONTROLL OVER HUMANS, In singapore you are not allowed to kiss with your partner in pulic. people still do of course, but with this super smart camera technology they would be able to detect such a “unusual behavior” and arest you 5 minutes after!

  • John R

    Stazi are alive and well

  • Sean Ahner

    I think theres no problem about it because it lessens the crimes ,but I hope these cameras will do in a good

  • Jessica Venne

    Really amazing… I think we will be able to put a stop to the biggest crimes with this technology….