Walk through the office door and the camera has you. On the large screen to your right, a fluorescent geometric outlines your face, bobbing and morphing with your every move. It’s an impressive demonstration of revolutionary computer-vision technology by a Carnegie Mellon spin-off, Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition (PittPatt).
Founded in 2004 by alum and former Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute professor, Dr. Henry Schneiderman (E’90, CS’00), PittPatt’s software offers unparalleled face detection, tracking and recognition capabilities. Based on more than a decade of his research, Schneiderman founded the company to bring his work into the public domain.
“When I went back to grad school, it was to develop technology that would be useful,” explained Schneiderman. “I want to get the technology out there in the world. I’m the sort of person that likes to see things work and really be useful.”
PittPatt’s software is already in use by several government organizations and undergoing testing by a number of companies and universities. Possible applications are numerous, ranging from simple photo organization, to security, to complex web video search.
One government entity scans video from worldwide news broadcasts to identify segments with intelligence significance. Another company plans to identify speakers and content from their library of videoconferences. A popular demo on the company’s website allows a user to navigate all three seasons of Star Trek by favorite character — identifying who gets the most camera time.
Schneiderman says that customers are telling him that the software is ready for practical application and they see a solid business case for deployment based on reduction in manual labor, improvements in their customer interactions, or new capabilities that were not previously possible.
PittPatt’s Carnegie Mellon ties run deep. Joining Schneiderman on the management team are two colleagues from his days of graduate study: Dr. Michael Nechyba (CS’98), also from the Robotics Institute, and Dr. Michael Sipe (E’99) from electrical and computer engineering. Of the growing company’s seven other employees, three are Carnegie Mellon alumni, and their three interns are current students.
“To me, the experience of Carnegie Mellon is the people that you meet,” explained Sipe, “because it’s really the top. The best of the best are there.”
Added Nechyba,“At Carnegie Mellon, because of the great exposure to all of the people you interact with, you learn a useful methodology of thinking about problems that allows you to see the big picture. That’s really important.”
The team is excited about the future.
“I think the killer app is yet to be found,” said Sipe, speaking for the group. “People are, as we speak, coming out with outrageous ideas and ways to use technology.”