Sunday, March 8, 2009

CyLab Research Update: Basic Instincts in the Virtual World?

"Instinctive computing is an emerging framework for a new kind of operating systems. Instead of making patches on an existing system, we want to make a new platform that integrates security, privacy and visual thinking in one place. Yang Cai, PhD., CyLab Instinctive Computing Lab, 2009

CyLab Research Update: Basic Instincts in the Virtual World?

On-line access to the CyLab weekly seminar series is one of the benefits of the CyLab Partners program. This access enables CyLab's corporate partners to expose their own teams to the latest developments in our ongoing research program.

The research being conducted at CyLab is both breathtaking in its vision and powerful in its practicality.

From time to time, CyBlog will offer you a glimpse behind the curtain.

Here is your first peek --

Are there digital pheromones?

In nature, pheromones are used for identification, alarm, trail and information, but a CyLab team is applying the concept to cyberspace.

"Whenever we do a google search we leave a trail, we actually leave our digital pheromones," says Yang Cai, founder of CyLab's Ambient Intelligence Lab. "This pheromone metaphor will combine a lot of elements together, e.g., digital, analog, physical and on-line community. It is a new way to think about different technologies, e.g., positioning, wireless networks, sensing, search, database retrieval. We can integrate a lot of technologies under this concept."

In a recent CyLab partners program seminar, Yang Cai gave a mind-expanding talk on "Instinctive Computing," and the concept of "digital pheromones" was just one aspect of his presentation.

"Instinctive Computing is a rethinking of overall computing, AI and network technologies and a new paradigm for the integrated security and privacy," according to Cai. "Instinctive Computing is a biologically and cognitively inspired computing that minimizes information overhead and maximizes security, privacy, efficiency and reliability. ... Five years ago, at the birth of Cylab, the founding director Pradeep Khosla pointed out that the ultimate goal of security research here is to catalyze the revolutionary technologies for next generation computing and networking. Instinctive Computing is a brand new field created in Cylab."

"Recently, in the field of Cybernetics and AI, there have been quite a few studies about Subconsciousness, e.g., Perceptual Intelligence (Pentland) looks at the perceptual models of humans and animals, and Affective Computing (Picard/Minsky) proposes an emotional machine. According to them, emotions plays a major role in human decision-making and control a lot of our mental resources during decision-making. There is even one PhD. thesis on daydreaming, i.e., how to create a script that simulates daydreaming. It is very unique research. Here at our lab, we are trying to build an instinctive operating system. It is an ambitious goal, but we are trying to build it from very small pieces."

Cai's research is focused on developing technologies in three areas of "Instinctive Computing": Soft Biometrics, Videometrics and Intelligence.

Soft Biometrics: "Soft biometrics is not meant to replace conventional biometrics, but to compliment and assist the traditional methods. The idea behind Soft Biometrics is that in our daily life we do not look at people's irises or fingerprints. We normally very vaguely look at proportion, color, height, gesture, etc. This kind of fuzzy input could be used to identify a person, or discover a pattern. Soft Biometrics would be good for fast-screening. It is non-invasive, because you can do it from videos. And it is also affordable, because a lot of video is free."

Videometrics: "There is a lot of video, but not enough people to look at it all. Most of the video is just thrown away. Here we try to retrieve those videos by words and eye-gazing, so the network will only send the sensory data that the operator is interested in, and the rest will be in low resolution. So we have a multi-resolution video stream. It saves a lot of bandwidth. We tested this on a mobile phone, and sent only the face in high resolution and the rest of the image on low resolution; and this reduced the size of the image sent from a 220K to only 2K. It is a big saving in bandwidth. We also applied this to surveillance videos, and the reduction is significant. So this is very practical for a digital video network, because the big problem is the scalability problem. You have very sophisticated, high resolution cameras but you do not have the bandwidth to pass this to the command center."

Intelligence: We are working with several companies on this project. We try to analyze the sensor data. NASA, for example, has something like fourteen years of data on the ocean and eighteen years of satellite data, but most of the data just sits in the server. There is no time to look at it. We are doing data mining to look at it, and create visualization tools to help the analysts look at it in a very quick way. We really need to see the patterns. This is called spatial-temporal data mining, and this will be very meaningful."

Cai and his team are producing promising results, including:

"The visual instinct-based object segmentation yields robust and fast results."

"The multi-resolution video stream can reduce the network bandwidth significantly."

"We found that a highly selective security system can reduce the concerns of privacy."

"Finally, a security system may be usedful for healthcare research or affordable diagnoses."

If you are interested in learning more, click here to find out about the Instinctive Computing Workshop that Cai is hosting on June 15-16, 2009 at Carnegie Mellon University CyLab in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.