Real-Life Marauders' Map Tracks Many People At Once

Straight from the pages of "Harry Potter": The multi-camera system is currently used in nursing homes to monitor residents. However, its designers say it could help identify suspected terrorists in public settings.

What's the Latest Development?

Since 2005, designers at Carnegie Mellon University have been refining a surveillance system that is capable of tracking over a dozen individuals simultaneously -- just like the Marauders' Map described in the Harry Potter books. The multi-camera setup was originally developed for nursing homes so that staff could monitor its residents' activity levels. However, team member Alexander Hauptmann thinks that the system could be installed as part of a public security framework, and used with existing algorithms to help identify criminals or terrorists. Compared to other experiments on multi-camera/multi-object tracking, Carnegie Mellon's version was tested in real world situations, and is able to locate an individual within one meter of their actual position with 88 percent accuracy.

What's the Big Idea?

Most video analysis is done manually, which makes it fairly time-consuming and inefficient in situations where perpetrators -- like those who committed the Boston Marathon bombing in April -- are likely on the move. Carnegie Mellon's system uses a number of different pieces of video data, including apparel color, trajectory and facial recognition, to identify individuals. Future changes include recording a person's outline rather than their entire body in order to preserve privacy, as well as adding depth cameras to aid in location.

Photo Credit:

Read it at LiveScience

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Saying no is hard. These communication tips make it easy.

You can say 'no' to things, and you should. Do it like this.

  • Give yourself permission to say "no" to things. Saying yes to everything is a fast way to burn out.
  • Learn to say no in a way that keeps the door of opportunity open: No should never be a one-word answer. Say "No, but I could do this instead," or, "No, but let me connect you to someone who can help."
  • If you really want to say yes but can't manage another commitment, try qualifiers like "yes, if," or "yes, after."
Keep reading Show less

Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Keep reading Show less