Selected one of Popular Sciences 50 Best of the Web.
Get Email Updates
Write to us and we will send you an email when a new feature appears on the site.
Caught on Tape (video)
September 20, 2001
Also on ScienCentral News
Black Box (video) - Theres a new high-tech tool for possibly recovering erased or damaged information on magnetic tape, like the kind used in many black box cockpit recorders. (9/18/01)
Focus on Space - Never before seen features of planets and images of stars at the center of our galaxy are now coming into focus thanks to recent advances in adaptive optics. (2/6/01)
Elsewhere on the web
American Academy of Forensic Sciences
International Crime Scene Investigators Association
International Forensic Image Enhancement Society
Definitions and Guidelines for the Use of Imaging Technologies in the Criminal Justice System
Scientific Working Group for Imaging Technologies
Youve 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 dont 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 NASAs 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 wont 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 doesnt 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.