This week I had the honor of crowning the winner of National Instruments’ student design competition, in which students show off the various inventive ways they use NI’s LabView software. For those who don’t know, NI builds the software and systems by which an engineer can test and prototype pretty much anything, from an irrigation system to a rocket. LabView is a software environment in which you can put together your parts ahead of time to test how much voltage goes here, how much interference results over there.
Add corrections officers to the list of workers at risk of being replaced by machines. Recently demonstrated computer-vision systems can analyze imagery provided by cameras perched in prison yards, recognizing faces, gestures, and unfolding incidents and warning guards if, say, two groups of inmates appear hostile. It’s one of a smattering of experimental computer-vision systems highlighted in a New York Times piece examining how smart, observant computers may soon document our every move.
The problem with surveillance cameras is that they can see but they can't think, which means there always has to be a human on the other end making cognitive sense of what's right in front of the camera. But if we meshed machine vision with visual intelligence, DARPA argues in a solicitation for its new "Mind's Eye" program, we could remove the human element from myriad tasks.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.