Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spilling the military vision beans

While there are many fascinating application challenges that have been resolved by machine-vision systems, there are many that go unreported.

That's because the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that create such vision-based machines are required to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with their customers to restrict what information can be revealed.

Oftentimes, it’s not just the specifications of the machine that are required to be kept under wraps. These NDAs also restrict the disclosure of the challenge that needed to be addressed before the development of the system even commenced.

Now, you might think that the development of vision systems for the military marketplace might be an even more secretive affair. After all, building a vision system to protect those in battle would initially appear to be much more imperative than keeping quiet about a machine that inspects food or fuel cells.

While the specifics of military designs are almost impossible to obtain legally, that's not true, however, for depictions of the systems that the military would like to see developed in the future.

Often such descriptions are found in extensive detail on numerous military procurement sites, even down to the sorts of software algorithms and hardware implementations that are required to be deployed.

Could it be that in doing so, though, the military minds are handing over potentially constructive information to research teams in rogue states? If they are, then surely they are making a mockery of the very International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which control the export and import of defense-related materials and services.

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