Real life HAL 9000 meets Skynet: AI controlled video surveillance society

Eye in the sky is everywhere, but what if all those cameras were functioning as eyes connected to computers with artificial intelligence that can see, learn and make decisions on what to report in real-time as threats based on behavior recognition? The surveillance society has made a quantum-leap forward.

Houston-based BRS Labs provides AISight software that offers the "first autonomous 24/7 behavioral analytics solution that analyzes video content, and alerts in real time on abnormal and suspicious activity." To put it another way, computer-controlled video surveillance cameras are the eyes watching us and, via artificial intelligence, the software learns from what it sees with all those "eyes," and builds short and long term memories as it searches for abnormal or suspicious behavior. It requires no human analysis; the AI brain remembers, grows smarter, responds to all abnormal behavior and issues real time alerts.

Don't tick off HAL. Or perhaps it's a cross of HAL and Skynet? BRS Labs explained how its Behavioral Analytics mock the human brain:

The system builds memories or hypothetical concepts - HypoceptsTM - that closely mirror the way in which humans form memories and cognitive relationships. These Hypocepts enable the creation, storage, and decay of observed behavior patterns - short and long term memory; and "forgetting".  These models are continuously refined into structures that account for and explain the observations made by the system. Since Hypocepts mature with time, the system has the capability to learn from what it observes, remember activity patterns and adjust to changes in the environment, field of view and equipment - without manual interaction.

Like when we looked at computers which could interact on a deep personal touchy-feely level with you, reading, interpreting, reacting, or storing your emotions, this sent me on a quick flashback to 2001: A Space Odyssey when HAL 9000 [After killing the rest of the crew] said: "Look, Dave, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over. I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you."

Save us from HAL's help. Although Popular Mechanics reported that "most Americans would probably welcome such technology," the ACLU previously assured us that You Are Being Watched and then related numerous CCTV horror stories. While AISight may not have voyeuristic tendencies, yet, is it an AI-controlled video surveillance society, sort of a "Welcome to Skynet?"

"The growing government demand for this technology comes from defense, law enforcement and critical infrastructure environments, and specifically, U.S. Intelligence agencies, DoD, military force protection and transit agencies." Director and president of BRS Labs John Frazzini said he can foresee "the day when it will be unheard of to deploy video surveillance systems without some form sophisticated artificial intelligence analysis taking place in the background."

In fact Government Security News (GSN) covered the 2011 Homeland Security Awards where BRS won for Best Intelligent Video Surveillance Solution [PDF]. GSN posted a video interview discussing how BRS "has invented an artificial intelligence-based video surveillance platform that has injected advanced artificial neuro network technology into the analysis of video surveillance data."

Video analytics is allegedly "dead" and fatally flawed, and "open-sourced algorithms" lack "intelligence to understand what it is seeing." Frazzini said, "The AISight 3.0 solution can handle over 500 video feeds and can detect 350 objects per camera field of vision. The system multiplies a surveillance systems ability to detect anomalies consistently."

Some of the problems with rule-based logic systems are the high installation costs, the maintenance costs since if the camera is moved then it needs all the rules defined again, and the hundreds of false alarms or missed threats in real-time. Since BRS' solution is reason-based, it requires no human resources to setup the rules and it requires no tripwire which could trigger hundreds of erroneous alerts. Frame-by-frame its artificial neural network simulates the human brain to watch, learn, think and create its own memories, BRS said in the AiSight 3.0 in action video. The 'better' to issue alerts in real time if it spots suspicious behaviors while combating crime and terrorism.

Tampa capped $2 million as the ceiling for the surveillance cameras at the 2012 Republican National Convention, but wanted a "sophisticated video management system that can 'intelligently' recognize normal and abnormal behavior, without the need for human interaction and alert officials within seconds." The system the city wants "should be able to track at least 300 moving objects within a single frame, monitor video feeds from at least 25 cameras simultaneously and give remote access to up to 150 users." The St. Petersburg Times reported that BRS says no problem since AISight "can do even more. For example, the company says, one of the first signs of trouble often is a crowd that either gathers or scatters quickly. AISight can learn patterns of activity for groups and can send an alert if, for example, there's a sudden change in the way a group moves through a scene."

Perhaps I've seen 2001: A Space Odyssey one too many times, but it's not hard to imagine this scenario. From IMDB:

HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that. Dave Bowman: What's the problem? HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do. Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL? HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it. Dave Bowman: I don't know what you're talking about, HAL. HAL: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen. Dave Bowman: [feining ingorance] Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL? HAL: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.

Check out AiSight 3.0 in action and examples of deployed sights. Skynet cool, HAL waiting to read your lips and report you as a threat, or creepy privacy invasion?

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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