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Software Helps CCTV Operators Catch What They Missed

By Matthew Harwood

It's inevitable: CCTV operators cannot identify 100 percent of everthing that they watch out for when staring at a mountain of television screens. They're only human.

But now there's a software program that can help operators catch what they missed, according to New Scientist.

To the rescue of Big Brother's limited attention capabilities come Ulas Vural and Yusuf Akgul of the Gebze Institute of Technology in Turkey, who have developed a gaze-tracking camera system that watches the eyeballs of CCTV operators as they work. It then automatically produces a summary of the CCTV video sequences they have missed during their shift. "This increases the reliability of the surveillance system by giving a second chance to the operator," the researchers write in the journal Pattern Recognition Letters (DOI: 10.1016/j.patrec.2009.03.002).

The system uses webcam-style cameras trained on the irises of the CCTV operators. From this, software works out where the operators are looking as they stare at each monitor - and the areas they have not been paying attention to. From this it creates a video of what they missed, for them and their bosses to watch at the end of their shift.

But as the New Scientist notes, there's an irony in having an electric eye watching the watchers. They probably won't like the idea of being spied on anymore than anyone else does, because if they miss too much mischief on-screen, they could lose their jobs.

And then there's the entirely different problem with the gaze-tracking system that anyone that spends their days behind a computer screen can tell you. Just because you're looking at the screen, doesn't mean you're registering anything occurring on the screen.

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