Minority Report-inspired software predicts when laws are about to be broken
The U.S. military has funded an artificial intelligence system that connects to surveillance cameras to predict when people are about to commit a crime.
The software, which has been dubbed as Mind's Eye, recognises human activities seen on CCTV and uses algorithms to predict what the targets might do next and then notify the authorities.
The technology has echoes of the Hollywood film 'Minority Report', in which people are punished for crimes they are predicted to commit, rather than after committing a crime, the Daily Mail reported.
In their study, scientists from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania focus on the "automatic detection of anomalous and threatening behaviour" by simulating the ways humans filter and generalise information from the senses.
The system works using a high-level artificial intelligence infrastructure the researchers call a "cognitive engine" that can learn to link relevant signals with background knowledge and tie it together.
The signals the AI can recognise - characterised by verbs including 'walk', 'run', 'carry', 'pick-up', 'haul', 'follow', and 'chase', among others - cover basic action types which are then set in context to see whether they constitute suspicious behaviour.
The device is expected to be used at airports, bus and train stations, as well as in military contexts where differentiating between suspicious and non-suspicious behaviour is important, like when trying to differentiate between civilians and militants in places like Afghanistan.
According to Phys.org, this automated approach to surveillance could one day tempt authorities to replace humans with computers as CCTV camera operators.
Human operators are expensive to maintain and also fallible: distracted or drowsy operators pose a risk to safety if they miss danger signs, while ever-vigilant computers, once installed, are cheaper to employ.
Also, cameras that do nothing but record what they are seeing can only provide information after a crime has occurred, while the latest research hopes to use unmanned cameras to prevent crimes or dangerous behaviour happening at all.