Software systems could one day analyze everything from blurry war-zone footage to the subtle sarcasm in a written paragraph, thanks to two unassuming scientists who are inspired by biology to make revolutionary strides in intelligent computing.
Yann LeCun and Rob Fergus, both computer science professors at New York University, are the brains behind “Deep Learning,” a program sponsored by Darpa, the Pentagon’s blue-sky research agency. The idea, ultimately, is to develop code that can teach itself to spot objects in a picture, actions in a video, or voices in a crowd. LeCun and Fergus have $2 million and four years to make it happen.
Existing software programs rely heavily on human assistance to identify objects. A user extracts key feature sets, like edge statistics (how many edges an object has, and where they are) and then feeds the data into a running algorithm, which uses the feature sets to recognize the visual input.
“People spend huge amounts of time building these feature sets, figuring out which are better or more accurate, and then refining them,” LeCun told Danger Room. “The question we’re asking is whether we can create computers that automatically learn feature sets from data. The brain can do it, so why not machines?”
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