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Computer system said to help stop drowning

Vision IQ says its Poseidon system recently helped French lifeguards rescue a drowning victim near Paris.

For swimmers in distress, it seems a computer system can be as important as flesh-and-blood lifeguards.

A man swimming in a pool near Paris almost drowned last week but was rescued with the help of a computer vision surveillance system, the maker of the system said. The Poseidon drowning-detection system also helped lifeguards save the life of a teenager in France who nearly drowned in 2000, and last year it helped lifeguards in Germany rescue an elderly man who nearly drowned after a heart attack, said Poseidon's maker, Vision IQ.

"Health organizations worldwide document hundreds of drownings and near drownings every year, many in pools staffed with professional, certified lifeguards. It is virtually impossible for lifeguards to see everything that is happening in the pool all of the time," Olivier Fulconis, Vision IQ's chief operating officer, said in a statement last week.

The latest close call occurred Jan. 26 at the municipal pool in Sceaux, a Paris suburb, according to Vision IQ. The company said an athletic young man suddenly felt faint during his regular swim session, and sunk to the bottom of the deep end of the pool. Ten seconds later, the Poseidon system detected him and sounded the alarm to the lifeguard on duty, who pulled the victim out of the water, Vision IQ said. The victim was resuscitated and taken to a hospital, where he fully recovered, according to the company.

Poseidon is a computer vision surveillance system designed to recognize texture, volume and movement within a pool. It is made up of a camera network that continually surveys the pool and a software system that analyzes the trajectories of swimmers. Vision IQ says the system can alert lifeguards in the first seconds of a potential accident.

The first Poseidon system was installed in 2000, and the product is now in service or being installed in more than 120 pools in Europe and North America, according to Vision IQ.

Computer vision is a field that has logged progress in recent years, partly through robotics research.