Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why did the pedestrian cross the road?

Have you ever dreamed up a better mousetrap while luxuriating in the bath, but done nothing about it while someone smarter/harder working actually made it happen?

If you answered “yes” you’ll understand how I felt when I read “Innovations in Crossing the Line,” on the Vision Systems Design website. (Strangely enough, the article was published March 1st, 2009, so I’m not sure why it’s taken me two years to find it.)

My idea was to use machine vision to improve the performance of pedestrian crossings. I reasoned that monitoring people as they crossed the road could improve traffic flow by keeping the lights red for the minimum time needed, while also aiding the more slow-moving pedestrians. I’d not only bask in the rosy glow that comes from reducing exhaust emissions and saving lives, but given the huge market, I’d make a bundle too.

Of course, I did nothing about it, but it seems some smart guys at Migma Systems in Walpole, Massachusetts not only had the same idea but got off their butts and made it happen. You can see details of the “MigmaMidblock” on their website. It’s a terrific idea and I take my hat off to them for making it reality.

If cities can be persuaded to invest in this technology - and since it saves lives and money that ought to be an easy sell - we’ll have video everywhere of folks like you and me crossing the road. It won’t tell us why they crossed the road, but it’s a start.

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