Soon, software to find people in a crowd

The image of a criminal merging into a crowd to keep the cops guessing is common in movies as identifying and tracking a person in a group is difficult. Not any more.

Researchers have now developed a software that enables the identification of each individual, therefore allowing their tracking within the group.

The software, called idTracker, enables the tracking of animals. The image of the individual - with his/her unique features, becomes the particular "footprint" of each animal.

"In the short term, this will be used in science, but in the longer term, the method we have developed can be applied to recognise people in large crowds, vehicles or parts in a factory, for instance," said Alfonso Pérez Escudero of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

The software identification system first performs a search of the specimens when they are separated and can be differentiated in a monitoring video.

Since then, the programme identifies and recognises its image in every frame of the video.The identification is automatically done by extracting the 'footprint' of each animal.

Thus, the routes that each of them took can be determined.

"Furthermore, it is possible to study the same individual in several videos because its 'footprint' is always the same." Gonzalo G. de Polavieja from CSIC said.

This enables a better understanding of their behaviour", De Polavieja added.

Although the researchers tested the software with fish, flies, ants and mice, it can be applied to other animals as well.

The findings appeared in the journal Nature Methods.

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