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Caught on Tape (video)
September 20, 2001

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You’ve heard the FBI is searching airport security camera images for any clues in the hijackings. In fact, there may be people with home video cameras who recorded suspicious activity they don’t realize could be useful to the investigation

As this ScienCentral News video reports, agents now have NASA technology that can enhance even a glimpse of a suspect caught on tape.

Getting rid of the jitters

Video Image Stabilization and Registration, or VISAR, was invented by David Hathaway and Paul Meyer, scientists at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. VISAR is able to correct for horizontal and vertical camera motion, as well as rotations and zoom effects. Sequences won’t move by more than one-tenth of a pixel, Hathaway says. "We keep rotations to less than a thirtieth of a degree and we keep the zoom factor steady to within one part in a thousand," he explains. The system also eliminates jagged edges from still images taken from video, reduces "snow" (static), and deblurs images.

At the moment, VISAR works on a general purpose computer and doesn’t work in real-time, says Hathaway. "But speeding it up on a chip, you can make these things considerably faster and this may only be a year or two away," he says.

VISAR is now licensed to companies developing surveillance technology for the FBI and reconnaissance software for the military that will improve the quality of video shot in rugged environments.

It may have other uses as well. Hathaway envisions using VISAR in medicine, to improve the quality of images shot by tiny cameras used in diagnostic and surgical procedures. He and Meyer are already working with the Casey Eye Institute at the Oregon Health Sciences University to analyze cell movements is the eye associated with immune system diseases.

He also thinks it will eventually be available for consumers, since home videos can now be easily edited on home computers. "Having VISAR as a tool for stabilizing those sequences and taking out the jittery motions of the cameraman, or the mistakes that the cameraman will make, will be very helpful to lots of moms and pops around the nation and around the world," he says.

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