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Predator: A camera that learns as it goes along

A student from the U.K.'s University of Surrey takes home an award for developing "Predator," a video motion tracking system that learns with experience.

A U.K. Ph.D. student has developed a smart camera that can not only follow objects, but can learn from its tracking mistakes and then recalculate to track more accurately.

Zdenek Kalal from the University of Surrey's Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing, developed the Predator system to help the disabled use computers. For example, Predator can "track a tip of a pen held in the mouth and act as a computer mouse for a paralyzed person."

But a system enabling motion tracking setups to learn from mistakes and improve their function could mean upgrades to everything from consumer trackpads to weapons systems.

The Predator system resembles already established motion-controlled technology such as Xbox 360's Kinect, appliance-friendly SoftKinetic gesture recognition systems, and emerging models of motion-capturing Web cameras like the CP Technologies Deluxe.

What sets it apart is its ability to learn from its errors and adjust its behavior--just as a human would gain better dexterity with experience.

For his work on Predator, Kalal recently took home the Technology Everywhere award--and more than $3,000. The award recognizes "a contribution to developing computing technologies that impact modern society." It's sponsored by IBM and the EPSRC, or (deep breath) Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the U.K.'s research funding council. For the big award reveal, representatives from industry and academia joined U.K. governmental ministers from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills at the Church House Conference Centre in London.

"I really like to work on problems that may have impact very soon and to provide simple solutions that can be applied in various areas," Kalal said during his acceptance speech in London. And Kalal's work is taking him to various areas, as he already presented his work at conferences in Japan, China, the U.S., and Europe.