Monday, March 24, 2008

Forensic Education: Courses for young and old who are interested in forensic audio and video

I've got two announcements regarding forensic education to pass along.

First off, the Department of Justice (USA) is funding Professor Rich Sanders, of the University of Colorado, Denver, to establish a new National Center for Audio/Video Forensics. The full university press release can be found here. It is scheduled to be up and running in the fall of 2009.

Second, the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics (USA) runs its popular Summer Science Programs (SSP) every summer. SSP is a residential summer camp for rising 8th, 9th and 10th graders from across the state. The reason I mention it here is that I have been asked to teach two one-week runnings of a new course entitled A Mathematical Tour of Forensic Science. If you are interested, you can find out more on their website.

Update: I am informed by the director of the SSP that students from outside of South Carolina are also very welcome to participate.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Image Recognition: "Computer, where did I lay the keys?"

The Daily Mail (UK tabloid newspaper) has a gadget article about Smart Goggles, a human wearable image recognition and recall system built into a set of glasses. The user trains the system by focusing its built-in camera on a series of objects, such as car keys, CDs, etc. while speaking the appropriate name of the object. Once trained sufficiently, the system automatically recognizes images it sees and stores the information for later retrieval, again by spoken word. The processor (computer) is worn on the user's back. The system was developed by Professor Kuniyoshi and colleagues at the University of Tokyo.

It isn't much of a stretch to see how these same concepts could be built into other video applications, such as CCTV systems, for instance. Don't be surprised if they don't work this into a future episode of CSI or similar television show (or the next James Bond movie, for that matter).

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Optics: "Look Mom, no lens!"

Similar to a child demonstrating how he can ride a bicycle without using his hands, now we have scientists taking pictures without a lens.

Upon reflection, it was a predictable next step. First we had the major advance of refocusing out-of-focus images by, in essence, building a correction lens, all in software. This is what allowed NASA (the USA space agency) to correct some of the Hubble Space Telescope images after it was put into orbit with an out-of-focus optical chain.

But it one can simulate a lens well enough to correct an image, even if imperfectly, why not replace the real lens with a simulated one and focus the unfocused image received by the (lens-less) sensor? That is what the team at Argonne National Laboratory (Illinois, USA) is working on. Of course, simulations are rarely, if ever, as good as the real thing in all aspects, but if for their particular problem (X-ray imaging) the simulated lens is better than their real one, then they will have improved the imaging system and advanced the state of the art yet again.