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