DARPA Picks Visual Intelligence System’s Design Leader

The project aims to enable a new era in unmanned robotic surveillance.
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The project aims to enable a new era in unmanned robotic surveillance.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected SRI International, a nonprofit research and development organization, to lead a team to design a visual intelligence system that the agency says will “enable a new era in unmanned robotic surveillance.”

The Visual Intelligence Grounded in Learning (VIGIL) project is part of the larger DARPA program known as Mind’s Eye, which is to develop a smart camera system that needs minimal human supervision, can be deployed rapidly and cost effectively in unmanned vehicles (UVs) stationed in areas under automatic surveillance, and can interpret behavior and identify potential threats from video data.

“Surveillance in dangerous areas is currently performed by remote reconnaissance teams and advanced scouting patrols, who are often risking their lives,” said Hung Bui, SRI’s senior computer scientist. “While their efforts can be supplemented through the use of cameras on unmanned vehicles, such devices still require constant human monitoring to analyze ongoing activities. SRI’s VIGIL system combines automatic reasoning and machine perception to automatically analyze areas of interest while keeping members of the armed forces out of harm’s way,” he said.

SRI and its partners, the University of Leeds and the University of Maryland, are currently working to get UVs to generate consistent interpretations based on adequate background knowledge about the structure of observed actions and objects; recognize potential threats despite incomplete or missing perceptual input; and learn new patterns and situation indicators with minimal human supervision, the company says.