This is the potential offered by machine vision technology - a branch of science that is based on the ability of highly sophisticated computer technology to see and analyse.
For example, machine vision would be able to distinguish a single person in a crowd who is standing still for some ten minutes during peak hours on a busy street or train platform. This could indicate possible furtive behaviour in the run up to a crime or contemplative behaviour associated with an attempted suicide.
Already, machine vision impacts on our everyday lives. For example, virtually every food product we buy has at one stage or another passed through a computerised automated quality checking procedure.
The theory and applied nature of machine vision will attract closer, international scrutiny at Cardiff University next month, as it hosts the British Machine Vision Conference 2002, from 2 to 5 September. Although a national conference, its reputation has spread such that 20 per cent of the 140 delegates are from overseas, coming from more than 14 countries including the USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, Korea, Sweden and Czechoslovakia.
"Machine vision has already made a huge impact as an inspection tool in manufacturing techniques, and an international meeting of this kind encourages us to discover new and wider, practical applications of the technology and to facilitate the rapid transfer of our research to industry," said conference organiser Dr Paul Rosin.
To help identify and exploit the application of machine vision to industry, the conference will incorporate a designated Industry Day on Wednesday 4th September. Presentations on Industry Day will focus on the practical applications of machine vision, in such spheres as quality control, security and surveillance, entertainment, the environment and medicine.
Several jpg graphics available with captions. For details contact Debra Lewis on 029-2087-4499, email: LewisD4@cardiff.ac.uk