Friday, October 27, 2006

The CSI Effect

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a excellent article on the "CSI Effect" on law enforcement agencies, the judicial system, and the public. Here are some brief excerpts:
Police processing crime scenes now over-collect evidence, and prosecutors order unnecessary tests to make sure that every eventuality is covered, Mr. Houck said. Defense attorneys, too, get in on the act, he continued, by demanding perfect science all the time.
... Mr. Houck cited jurors who have said they found defendants "not guilty" because there was not enough physical evidence presented, even if there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence.

... make the public believe that the scientists' resources are unending, Mr. Houck said. The labs on television have unlimited budgets and access to the best equipment in the world -- something that is uncommon in the real world.

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice at the end of 2002, there was a backlog of more than half-a-million cases in crime labs across the country.

I encourage you to read the entire article, which only runs about a page but its every word is "spot on", as the British say. My compliments to Paula Ward of the Pittsburgh Gazette for her reporting from the perspective of real-world forensic science.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tone deafness linked to right frontal brain area

The current issue of the Brain science journal presents the results of a study into tone deafness (congenital amusia) using MRI. The results pinpoint the right frontal area of the brain's white matter as the area that is different between normal hearing people and those with tone deafness.

The work was performed by researchers from the Université de Montréal, the Montreal Neurological Institute and the Newcastle University Medical School.

Press release on Eurekalert is here.

Kentucky RCFL opens new lab space

WFIE reports on new lab space for the Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory (RCFL) in Kentucky. Despite the name, an RCFL typically does much more than just computer forensics. Audio and video are called out explicitly in the report (hurrah!).

UPDATE: WAVE online report with significantly more info.

Example of forensic video analysis

If you are interested in seeing an example of a forensic video analysis report for a real case, check out this KXLY (Spokane, Washington State, USA) news report and the accompanying PDF of the forensic report. There is also supposed to be some audio and video excerpts linked to from the news report, but I could not get them to play; maybe you will have better luck.

The forensic examiner who did the work was formerly with law enforcement and went from there to work for AVID, so don't be suprised to see a lot of references to that particular manufacturer's hardware and software.
Disclaimer: Any mention of any particular company should not be construed as an endorsement of their products. The motivating reason for the creation of this blog was to counter the commercial bent of the overwhelming majority of blogs that address audio and video forensics.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Where will surveillance cameras go next?

A rough history of the deployment of surveillance cameras might go something like this: bank lobbies, access portals, airport parking lots exits, ATM machines, city centers (in Europe), shopping malls, bars/pubs/restaurants, and communities (in USA). So what will the next stage of deployment be? Homes...

Music research using subjects with synaesthesia

Dr Jamie Ward, of the University College London (UCL) Department of Psychology, and others there have been working on music research using human subjects with a rare condition known as synaesthesia. Synaesthesia is is a neurological condition in which two or more bodily senses are coupled (Wikipedia) and manifests itself as, as examples, seeing images when music is played or experiencing a taste when reading a word. Fascinating, isn't it? To find out more on synaesthesia or participate in the research (if you have this condition), see the UCL Psychology site.

(Hat tip: scenta musci and news)

Human hearing, music, and evolution

The Boston Globe has an entertaining popular-science article on human hearing, music, and evolution.

Single-pixel camera

New Scientist has a write-up on a new camera technology to be presented at this week's Frontiers in Optics conference by researchers Richard Baraniuk and Kevin Kelly of Rice University in Houston, Texas (USA). The idea is to replace the multi-pixel image sensors currently used in digital cameras with an array of micro-mirrors that randomly reflect the light hitting them onto a single photoreceptor (i.e. light sensor). A follow-on processing stage then sorts out all the digitized light information to construct an approximation of the original image.

It is claimed that this can reduce overall power consumption of the system as well as compress the image data. Not to be too critical of early-stage work, but that seems like it will require one or more break-throughs and a favorable nod from the ghost of Mr. Murphy (of Murphy's Law fame).

Another idea that the researchers put forward seems to be a more workable application of the technology - using it with sensors that may not lend themselves easily to large arrays, such as terrahertz or ultraviolet single-element sensors.

Informative animation of Middle Eastern history

Due to the information war aspect of the ongoing War on Terror, it is particularly helpful to understand the history of the region. Maps of War has an animation entitled "Imperial History of the Middle East" that I found to be accurate, informative, and unbiased - at least as far as I could discern.