New Campus Study Involves Large-Scale Camera Network
By GEORGE FOULSHAM
B. S.Manjunath came up with the idea for his latest research project during a faculty meeting a few years ago. The professor of electrical and computer engineering spotted a science magazine with a cover photo of birds taking flight on a beach.
“It was about a project in Italy where they were monitoring birds,” Manjunath said. “There were trying to capture them with high-speed video cameras, to estimate their 3D position, to track them, to try to understand how they fly. I thought, ‘This looks cool. If I had a network of cameras, I could do that.’ ”
Thanks to a federal grant, Manjunath’s vision of a comprehensive camera network on the UCSB campus is about to become a reality. A team of researchers led by Manjunath and three of his graduate students are coordinating installation of the cameras at various locations around campus. The array of cameras will include ethernet-linked cameras inside Harold Frank Hall; battery-powered cameras mounted above campus bicycle paths, Kirby Crossing, and Steck Circle near the east entrance to campus; and solar-powered cameras at Coal Oil Point Reserve.
Manjunath and other researchers have a variety of goals for the project, including documenting patterns of human movement, both inside buildings and on bicycle paths, as well as monitoring the nesting areas of snowy plovers on the beaches near campus. But there is one thing he would like to emphasize: The video network will not be used for surveillance. “I think the best thing in a project like this is to be very transparent,” he said. “There are some people who might be concerned about something like this. The cameras are not operational 24/7. We’re not interested in what individuals are doing, but in the collective behavior to understand the human spatial dynamics.”
Cameras have been up in Harold Frank Hall for several months, most of them in the hallways of all five floors, though no data collection has started.
The project’s Web site will post times when data will be gathered. The video will only be collected for 45 minutes to an hour at a time, and usually only three or four times per week for experiments. The total amount of video data may not exceed 5-10 hours per camera during the project period. Images will not be distributed without prior approvals, Majunath said. “All the video data will be processed to remove any personal identification information, such as blurring faces if they are visible,” he said.
After receiving funding, Manjunath contacted Cristina Sandoval, director of the Coal Oil Point Reserve, and asked if she would be interested in participating. Sandoval immediately said yes.
“The camera network will be an efficient method for collecting data that is otherwise too time-consuming or potentially biased because of an observer’s presence,” Sandoval said. “Researchers will be able to record the visitations of pollinators to flowers and monitor if climate change will modify the pollinator-flower interactions. We will also be able to monitor the behavioral response of nesting plovers to approaching predators, people, or any other type of disturbance, such as fireworks.”
Joining Manjunath in this research project are faculty members Joao Hespanha, Upamanyu Madhow, and Ken Rose, of electrical and computer engineering; Tobias Hollerer, Chandra Krintz, Kevin Almeroth, Ambuj Singh, and Matthew Turk, of computer science; and Francesco Bullo of mechanical engineering.