TECH
06/17/2013 04:41 pm ET

Carnegie Mellon Tracking Algorithm Brings Harry Potter's Marauder's Map To Life

Carnegie Mellon researchers Alexander Hauptmann, Shoou-I Yu and Yi Yang announced last week that they have created a "method for tracking the locations of multiple individuals in complex, indoor settings using a network of video cameras."

The algorithm they created allows people to be tracked from one camera to the next, and can estimate people's positions when they're in the camera network's blind spots, a task previously impossible for computerized systems. Such complex tracking and analysis is still typically done manually, the researchers say.

According to the scientists' research paper, the project is very similar to The Marauder's Map, a map in the Harry Potter book series that tracks every student and teacher in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

But not everyone's pleased that The Marauder's Map has come to life:

The Carnegie Mellon researchers, however, don't want their algorithm to be used for evil. They developed it using camera footage from a nursing home in order to check on the health of the residents.

"The goal is not to be Big Brother, but to alert the caregivers of subtle changes in activity levels or behaviors that indicate a change of health status," Hauptmann said.

The full research paper also reveals that Hauptmann, Yu and Yang are already aware how the system could be used in more advanced security situations. Their introduction says as much: "The Marauder’s Map, which locates and tracks friends and enemies of Harry Potter in the magical world, is also invaluable in real world surveillance scenarios."

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