Recognising Known Patterns within a Field

Eyes Recruited: Military acquires pattern-recognition-based targeting system

The military is trumpeting a new pattern-recognition-based targeting system as a critical edge in field weapons technology. Surprisingly, this critical edge is provided by the one thing that the military has always had, and which is available to all military organisations, the human perceptual system. The military has concluded that the human perceptual system is the most cost-efficient method for the identification of targets within battle field situations. Key in their analysis was the human ability to quickly learn and reliably recognise complex patterns that often are impossible for mechanical systems to detect.

One of the problems faced by the military establishment is that they have no clear idea how this brave new weapon works, something that tends to drive military thinkers mad. Although there are theories on how the system works, no-one can guarantee the method, and thus there is no way to plan for repair and renewal of the resource.

Military analysts are clustering around researchers studying perception, and it seems they are favouring the "feature-based" model of perception that is functional, easily understood, and capable of explaining most of the features of the perceptual system. This system works by reducing patterns to their common features, searching fields for those features, then using the relative position of the features to guide further processing and confirm identification. When combined with a popular weighting model, in which the difference of a pattern from the expected template is used to differentiate potentially more important targets, the model shows real promise of explaining this new weapon.

There has been considerable interest from security systems vendors and manufacturers, who have significant problems requiring pattern-recognition technology. It is possible that someday we may have human beings guarding our properties, humans fighting our wars, and humans building our products.

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Copyright (c) 1997 -- Mike Fletcher
Reproduction for other than personal use prohibited without express written permission from the author.