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8/31/2011
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DARPA Seeks Software To Analyze Terrorist Videos

Visual Media Reasoning program seeks partners on software to extract intelligence from terrorist videos and photos.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
The Department of Defense (DOD) aims to build software that can extract intelligence from digital photos and videos that adversaries post on the Web to aid in its counterterrorist and other defense activities.

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is seeking proposals for the Visual Media Reasoning (VMR) program, which aims to create software that can rapidly identify basic "who, what, where, and when" information held in digital photos or images posted online or found on devices such as laptops and cameras that authorities may capture, according to a solicitation posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

"Our adversaries frequently use video, still, and cellphone cameras to document their training and operations and occasionally post this content to widely available websites," according to the solicitation. "The volume of this visual media is growing rapidly and is quickly outpacing our ability to review, let alone analyze, the contents of every image."

The DOD aims to use VMR technology in tandem with people analyzing videos to help alert them to scenes that may warrant extra attention. The technology is meant to specialize in gleaning information from "fuzzy, noisy, and ill-posed images that have little or no associated metadata and originate from unknown sources and unknown context," according to the solicitation.

DARPA is seeking proposals that can provide innovative approaches to understanding visual images as well as the ability to adapt existing techniques for new purposes. Proposals also should include methods for integrating multiple visual-processing algorithms and image datasets into one user-friendly software package.

The DOD plans to use VMR during warfare and other tactical missions to gather intelligence and plan missions, according to the solicitation. The department also aims to use it to engage in longer-term forensic analysis on captured media to support counterterrorist investigations.

VMR is not the only program DARPA has for enhancing how it analyzes video during combat and other missions. Technology under development called the Video and Image Retrieval and Analysis Tool (VIRAT) is aimed at detecting activity from a variety of image-capturing sensors on military vehicles, particularly to identify isolated actions in a small geographic area. Like VMR, VIRAT is meant to be used by analysts to help them better extract intelligence from video.

In the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: As federal agencies close data centers, they must drive up utilization of their remaining systems. That requires a well-conceived virtualization strategy. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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