Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon System Locates Shooters Using Smartphone Video

November 21, 2018

Carnegie Mellon System Locates Shooters Using Smartphone Video

By Byron Spice

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a system that can accurately locate a shooter based on video recordings from as few as three smartphones.

When demonstrated using three video recordings from the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and hundreds wounded, the system correctly estimated the shooter's actual location - the north wing of the Mandalay Bay hotel. The estimate was based on three gunshots fired within the first minute of what would be a prolonged massacre.

Alexander Hauptmann, research professor in CMU's Language Technologies Institute, said the system, called Video Event Reconstruction and Analysis (VERA), won't necessarily replace the commercial microphone arrays for locating shooters that public safety officials already use, although it may be a useful supplement for public safety when commercial arrays aren't available.

One key motivation for assembling VERA was to create a tool that could be used by human rights workers and journalists who investigate war crimes, terrorist acts and human rights violations, Hauptmann said.

"Military and intelligence agencies are already developing these types of technologies," said fellow researcher Jay D. Aronson, a professor of history at CMU and director of the Center for Human Rights Science. "We think it's crucial for the human rights community to have the same types of tools. It provides a necessary check on state power."

The researchers presented VERA and released it as open-source code https://vera.cs.cmu.edu/ last month at the Association for Computing Machinery's International Conference on Multimedia in Nice, France.

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