Research Projects in Omnidirectional Surveillance

Today, video surveillance and monitoring (VSAM) systems rely heavily on conventional imaging systems as sources of visual information. A conventional imaging system is severely limited in its field of view. It is only capable of acquiring visual information through a relatively small solid angle subtended in front of the image detector. To alleviate this problem, pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) camera systems are often employed. Though this enables a remote user to control the viewing direction of the sensor, at any given instant, the field of view remains very limited. In short, conventional VSAM systems have blind areas that are far larger that their visible areas.

Imagine that we had at our disposal an image sensor that could ``see'' in all directions from its location (single viewpoint) in space, i.e. the entire ``sphere of view''. We refer to such a sensor as being omnidirectional. It is easy to see that such a device would have a profound impact on the nature of VSAM systems and their capabilities.

(a) An omnidirectional sensor would allow the VSAM system to be, at all times, aware of its complete surrounding.

(b) Tracking a moving object would be feasible in software, without the need for any moving parts (i.e. no panning, tilting, and rotating).

(c) Unlike physically tracking cameras, the omnidirectional sensor would have no problem simultaneously detecting several objects (or intruders) in distinctly different parts of its environment.

The goal of the omnidirectional VSAM research program at Columbia University and Lehigh University is to create novel omnidirectional video sensors, develop algorithms for omnidirectional visual processing, and use these sensors and algorithms to build intelligent surveillance systems. Below, several research projects within the omnidirectional VSAM program are briefly summarized. Most of these projected are funded by DARPA's VSAM initiative. Some of the projects are funded in part by the National Science
Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and an ONR MURI Grant.

Omnidirectional Video Cameras

There are several ways to enhance the field of view of an imaging system. Our approach is to incorporate reflecting surfaces (mirrors) into conventional imaging systems that use lenses. This is what we refer to as catadioptric imaging system. It is easy to see that the field of view of a catadioptric system can be varied by changing the shape of the mirror it uses. However, the entire imaging system must have a single effective viewpoint to permit the generation of pure perspective images from a sensed image. At Columbia University, a new camera with a hemispherical field of view has been developed. Two such cameras can be placed back-to-back, without violating the single viewpoint constraint, to arrive at a truly omnidirectional
sensor. Columbia's camera uses an optimized optical design that includes a parabolic mirror and a telecentric lens. It turns out that, in order to achieve high optical performance (resolution, for example), the mirror and the imaging lens system must be matched and the device must be carefully implemented. Several early prototypes of Columbia's omnidirectional camera are shown below. Further information related to omnidirectional image sensing can be found here.



"Omnidirectional Video Camera," Shree K. Nayar, Proc. of DARPA
Image Understanding Workshop, New Orleans, May 1997.

"Catadioptric Omnidirectional Camera," Shree K. Nayar, Proc. of
IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition,
Puerto Rico, June 1997.

A Complete Class of Catadioptric Cameras

As mentioned above, a catadioptric sensor uses a combination of lenses and mirrors placed in a carefully arranged configuration to capture a much wider field of view while maintaining a single fixed viewpoint. A single viewpoint is desirable because it permits the generation of pure perspective images from the sensed image(s). The parabolic catadioptric system described in the previous project is an example of such a single viewpoint system. In more recent work, we derived the complete class of single-lens single-mirror catadioptric sensors, which have single viewpoints. Some of the solutions turn out to be degenerate with no practical value, while other solutions lead to realizable sensors. We have also derived an expression for the spatial resolution of a catadioptric sensor in terms of the resolution of the image detector used to construct it. Finally, we have conducted a preliminary analysis of the defocus blur caused by the use of a curved mirror. Our results provide insights into the merits and drawbacks of previously proposed catadioptric cameras as well as draw our attention to some unexplored designs.


"Catadioptric Image Formation," Shree K. Nayar and Simon Baker,
Proc. of DARPA Image Understanding Workshop, New Orleans, May 1997.

"A Theory of Catadioptric Image Formation,"
Simon Baker and Shree K. Nayar, Proc. of IEEE International
Conference on Computer Vision, Bombay, January 1998.

"A Theory of Catadioptric Image Formation,"
Simon Baker and Shree K. Nayar, Technical Report,
Department of Computer Science, Columbia University,
November 1997.

Software Generation of Perspective and Panoramic Video

Interactive visualization systems, such as Apple's QuickTime VR, allow a user to navigate around a visual environment. This is done by simulating a virtual camera whose parameters are controlled by the user. A limitation of existing systems is that they are restricted to static environments, i.e. a single wide-angle image of a scene. The static image is typically obtained by stitching together several images of a static scene taken by rotating a camera about its center of projection. Alternatively, a wide-angle capture device is used to acquire the image. Our video-rate omnidirectional camera makes it possible to acquire wide-angle images at video rate. This has motivated us to develop a software system that can create perspective and panoramic video streams from an omnidirectional one. This capability adds a new dimension to the concept of remote visual exploration. Our software system, called omnivideo, can generate (at 30 Hz) a large number of perspective and panoramic video streams from a single omnidirectional video input, using no more than a PC. A remote user can control the viewing parameters (viewing direction, magnification, and size) of each perspective and panoramic stream using an interactive device such as a mouse or a joystick. The output of the omnivideo system (as seen on a PC screen) is shown below. Further details related to omnivideo can be found at here. Our current work is geared towards the incorporation of a variety of image enhancement techniques into the omnivideo system.

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"Generation of Perspective and Panoramic Video from Omnidirectional Video,"
Venkata N. Peri and Shree K. Nayar, Proc. of DARPA
Image Understanding Workshop, New Orleans, May 1997.

"Omnidirectional Video Processing,"
Venkata N. Peri and Shree K. Nayar,
Proc. of IROS U.S.-Japan Graduate Student Forum on Robotics, Osaka,
November 1996.

Remote Reality

The generation of a perspective view within a small window of a PC provides one type of interface. Over the past six months we have made advances in both the speed with which one can change the desired viewpoint and the speed of image generation. These advanced made it practical for us to increase the field of view generated and allow us to integrate it with a Head-Mounted-Display and head-tracker. The result is a system for visualization of "live" action from a remote omnidirectional camera, i.e. a system for Remote Reality.

This remote reality environment allows the user to naturally look around, within the hemispherical field of view of the omnidirectional, and see objects/action at the remote location.

Image of T. Boult wearing Remote Reality HMD and holding anOmniDirectional camerawith a Car-mouting bracket

If the omnidirectional video is recorded, say using a standard camcorder, the visualization can be remote in both space and time. Current the system provides 320x240 resolution color images of 30frame-per-second (fps) video with position updates from the head-tracker at between 15 and 30 fps. While the resolution is limited compared to today's high end graphics simulators, we believe this has much to offer for training and very significant advantages for very-short turn around "VR model acquisition" for in situ training and mission rehearsal. The system is quite inexpensive. The HMD/display system costs under $3000 for us to build from Common-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) components, with omnidirectional recording system costing about the same. The image insert shows the HMD component of system and an Omnidirectional camera on a vehicle mounting bracket.

For the general training the system has the advantage of having very realistic, albeit lower resolution, motion/action while not limiting the users viewing direction. The omnidirectional camera can be mounted on a vehicle or carried in a field-back to allow remote users to better experience the field conditions. Further its low cost combined with the ease with which one can easy acquire a new training "environment" would mean that it could be used at local facilities and maintained/customized with very little training. It can also be used for recording/review of training exercises.

For the pre-mission rehearsal, the system provides a very unique capability. If a omnivideo were acquired either by a vehicle drive through an area of interest and/or by a very-low altitude UAV fly-through, then an in-field remote-reality system could provide in situ rehearsal where users could review the site, in any direction. As the system could either use live video transmissions from the remote camera, or if more practical, a recorded tape, the "turn-around time" from acquiring the data to mission rehearsal would minimal. With a monocular display the system and the next generation of wearable computers, the system could be extended to allow a group of mobile agent to independently view remote sites, e.g. with a robotic vehicle carrying the camera into forward locations.

The evaluation of this work has two components. The first evaluation is to insure the design constraints, 30fps video and 15fps head tracking are met. The second evaluation is tied to image quality which will be evaluated other aspects of this project. Over the next few months we will continue to enhance the software, to port it to Windows-NT (its currently Linux based), and increase the types of HMD and head-trackers that are supported. We are also investigating, at a lower priority, auditory processing and software to aid in development in better/easier augmentation of the remote environments with information such as textual labels or active icons.

Omnidirectional Monitoring Over the Internet

The Internet can serve as a powerful platform for video monitoring. When the scenes of interest are truly remote, it is hard to access the outputs of the cameras located in the scene. In such cases, a client-server architecture that facilitates interactive video is attractive. Today, there are quite a few video cameras that are hooked up to the internet. Images produced by such a camera can be accessed by a remote user with the push of a button. In some cases, the orientation of the camera can also be controlled remotely. Unfortunately, clients must be scheduled (say, on a first-come-first-serve basis); if two users wish to interact with the camera at the same time, one must be served first while the other waits. This greatly limits the extent of interaction possible. Our omnidirectional cameras and the accompanying software provide a powerful means for remote visual monitoring. Since the camera captures an omnidirectional field of view, each remote viewer can request his/her own view, which is efficiently computed from the same omnidirectional image. Scores of users can therefore be serviced simultaneously, without any conflicts. In addition, we have used
state-of-the-art video compression and transmission techniques to ensure that users can view and manipulate their video streams close to real-time (a good link provides about 5 frames a second). A live demonstration of the first omnidirectional web-camera can be seen here.

Catadioptric Stereo

Catadioptric stereo, as the name suggests, uses mirrors to capture multiple views of a scene, simultaneously. Based on our results on catadioptric image formation, we have studied a class of stereo systems that use multiple mirrors, a single lens, and a single camera. When compared to conventional stereo systems that use two cameras, this approach has a number of significant advantages such as wide field of view, identical camera parameters and ease of calibration. While a variety of mirror shapes can be used to obtain the multiple stereo views, it is convenient from a computational perspective to ensure that each view is captured from a single viewpoint. We have analyzed four such stereo systems. They use a single camera pointed towards planar, ellipsoidal, hyperboloidal, and paraboloidal mirrors, respectively. In each case, we have derived epipolar constraints. In addition, we have studied exactly what can be seen by each system and formalized the notion of field of view. In particular, we have implemented two catadioptric stereo systems and conducted experiments to obtain 3-D structure. Below you see sketches of the four different catadioptric stereo systems. Also shown is an image captured by a parabolic stereo system and a depth map computed from it.

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"Sphereo: Recovering Depth Using a Single Camera and Two Specular Spheres,"
Shree K. Nayar, Proc. of SPIE: Optics, Illumination, and Image Sensing
for Machine Vision II, Cambridge, November 1988.

"Stereo Using Mirrors," Sameer Nene and Shree K. Nayar,
Proc. of IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision,
Bombay, January 1998.

"Stereo Using Mirrors," Sameer Nene and Shree K. Nayar,
Technical Report,
Department of Computer Science, Columbia University,
November 1997.

A Handy Stereo Camera

We have implemented a compact portable version of our catadioptric stereo design that uses planar mirrors. The complete stereo system is shown below. It uses two planar mirrors that are hinged together. The angles of the two mirrors can be adjusted independently to vary the field of view of the stereo system.

A single Hi-8 video camera records reflections from the two planar mirrors. The camera has a built in zoom lens that permits further control of the stereo field of view. The baseline of the stereo system is determined by the angles of the with respect to the optical axis of the camera and the distance of the camera from the mirrors.

image2.tif (925702 bytes)

An image of an object produced by the stereo system is shown below. Since both views of the scene are captured using the same camera, the image centers, the focal lengths, aspect ratios, and gamma functions
for both views are identical. This makes stereo calibration much  simpler than in a two-camera stereo system, even when the positions and orientations of the mirrors are unknown. Furthermore, both views
are captures at the same instance and hence there are no synchronization issues to be dealt with. The calibration simply involves computing the rotation and translation between the two virtual camera coordinate
frames corresponding to the two mirrors. These unknowns are easily computed by using selected a small number of corresponding pairs in the two views and then computing the fundamental matrix. Below the result of such a calibration are shown. The computed fundamental matrix is used to plot epipolar lines in the right view for the marked points in the left view. Also shown are the computed depth map, textured mapped and a novel view of the depth map.

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Combined Omnidirectional and Pan/Tilt/Zoom System

This project is geared towards the use of an omnidirectional imaging system to guide (or control) one or more conventional pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) imaging systems. Such a combined system has several advantages. While the omnidirectional camera provides relatively low-resolution images compared to narrow field-of-view camera, it is able to provide a complete view of activities in an area. The omnidirectional video can therefore be used to drive conventional PTZ systems (popularly known as "domes" in the security
industry). The control can either be manual or automatic. In the manual mode, interesting regions of activity are selected by clicking on the omnidirectional video display. A pre-computed map that relates coordinates in
the omnidirectional and PTZ systems is used to orient the PTZ system to provide a high-quality video stream of the region of interest. In the automatic mode, a motion detection algorithm is used to detect moving objects
in the omnidirectional video. Since there can be several moving objects, a scheduling algorithm is used to determine the sequence in which the PTZ system watches the moving objects as well as determine the time it devotes to each object. Below, the combined omnidirectional and PTZ system is shown. The omnidirectional camera hangs beneath the PTZ system. Our current work is geared towards developing sophisticated control laws for the trajectories of the PTZ system, the use of approximate site models to determine the mapping between the omnidirectional and PTZ system, the design of novel scheduling algorithms that would emulate different surveillance behaviors and the scaling of the current system to one that includes multiple omnidrectional and PTZ systems.

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Omnidirectional Egomotion Analysis

An application that clearly benefits from a wide field of view is the computation of ego-motion. Traditional cameras suffer from the problem that the direction of translation may lie outside of the field of view of the
camera, making the computation of camera motion sensitive to noise. We have developed a method for the recovery of ego-motion using omnidirectional cameras. Noting the relationship between spherical projection and wide-angle imaging devices, we propose mapping the local image velocity vectors to a sphere, using the Jacobian of the transformation between the projection model of the camera and spherical projection. Once the velocity vectors are mapped to a sphere, we have shown how existing ego-motion algorithms can be applied to recover the motion parameters (rotation and translation). We are currently exploring real-time variants of our optical flow and egomotion algorithms. These algorithms would have direct applications such as: navigation , dead-reckoning, stabilization, time to collision estimation, obstacle avoidance, and 3D structure estimation.

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"Egomotion and Omnidirectional Sensors,"
Joshua Gluckman and Shree K. Nayar,
Proc. of IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision,
Bombay, January 1998.

Smooth Object Tracking without Moving Parts

This project is geared towards developing algorithms for smooth tracking of individual objects moving within the omnidirectional field of view. The key idea is to use our omnivideo software system to create a perspective video stream that is focused on a moving object; i.e. the viewing direction and magnification are updated so as to keep the tracked object in the center of the computed perspective stream. This algorithm uses a combination of differencing and background subtraction, followed by sequential labeling, to find large moving regions. Simple temporal analysis is done to keep the labels of moving objects consistent over frames. A Kalman filter is then employed to generate smooth trajectories for the viewing parameters. These parameters are used in real-time to update the perspective video stream. The system therefore behaves very much like a pan/tilt/zoom system but without any moving parts. Below, a perspective video stream is shown that is focused on a fast moving object. We are currently exploring ways to use our computed trajectories to smoothly control a pan/tilt/zoom system.

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Frame-Rate Multi-Body OmniDirectional Tracking

Fast tracking is an important component of automated video surveillance systems. The non-traditional geometry of the omnidirection sensor means that many existing tracking algorithms, which presume motion is well approximated by translation in the image, cannot be used. Thus a significant component of the first 6 months of our project has been the design and implementation of a low lever tracking system for omnidirectional images.

The omnidirectional tracker is designed to handle multiple independent moving bodies undergoing non-ridged motion. The algorithm is based on background subtraction followed by connected component labeling, with subtle differences from previous work to better handle the variations of outdoor scenes, tracking very small objects and fast moving objects. The tracker can localize moving objects in the omnidirectional image and generate perspective views centered on each object. The system runs at 30fps on a Pentium II class processor when tracking and generating a few perspective images.

The example here shows an omnidirectional image on Lehigh's campus with "boxes" superimposed on all the tracked regions. The four windows at the bottom show the four most significant targets. The targets are (left to right): a car and three different people walking. Rounded boxes and arrows were added to highlight the relationships. (Note: web-encoding reduces image quality :-) Image showing omnidirectional tracker and generated views. Omnidirectinal with tracked regions and 4 most significant targetsdisplayed in perspective windows

The current software will provide a base for the more significant research issues we will address over the next few months. The ongoing research includes:

OmniMovie Compression

An Omni-Directional image sequence provides some unique advantages and also unique challenges for compression. For surveillance applications, the omnidirectional nature removes the need for a continuously panning/tilting camera. Thus the omnidirectional image stream provides wide-field coverage while maintaining a mostly static image sequence. For the quasi-static regions traditional MPEG compression of the difference from the reference image works reasonably well. However when there is motion, either of objects

Imageof T. Boult wearing Remote Reality HMD and holding anOmniDirectionalcamerawith a Car-mouting bracket

or of the camera, MPEG compression starts to break down. The fundamental problem is that MPEG is strongly biased toward motions that are well approximated as pure translational motion within the image. Unfortunately, object/camera translations in the world are not well approximate by translations in the Omni-directional image, thereby limiting the image quality and compression rate of MPEG compressed omnidirectional scenes, especially for a moving omnicamera.

We are currently exploring different schemes to provide lower-bandwidth and higher quality compression. The approach currently under investigation is a generalization of MPEG to allow different spatial "biases". Rather than considering a 3x3 regular grid of potential "motions", we consider 9 more generally specified regions to which an block could move --- in an omnidirectional image sequence these regions include a significant rotation component. The basic compression algorithm is then very MPEG like: For each 8x8 block, compute the difference between that block and each of the 9 "predicted locations" from the previous frame and then encode the "direction" of motion and DCT compress the difference image. The predicted locations are spatially varying but temporally constant making them easy to encode. Since for the surveillance applications we will already be doing object tracking, and probably transmitting some representation of object motion, we will be exploring using this tracking data to further bias the "motion". The quality and performance of this algorithm is currently being evaluated and is expected to be finished in the next few months.

SuperResolution OmniImages

With a 360 degree by 180 degree field of view, all packed within a standard video image, resolution is often an issue. To help mitigate this, we are developing algorithms that combine tracking, high quality image warping and robust estimation to fuse produce " super-resolution" images. We have already demonstrated our techniques for more traditional sensors, see our DARPA Image Understanding Workshop paper for a summary of our two different approaches as well as our detailed web docs/papers.

We are currently concluding a quantitative evaluation of the image-based technique using recognition rates as the primary metric. Over the next six months we will be adapting the technique to the omnidirectional sensor, where the warping and blurring models need to be more complex. Outdoor lighting issues should be addressed with our edge-based technique, though it will be limited by the quality of matching with varying shadows and non-ridge objects.

Live Images in the IUE and Distributed IUE

Over the past few months we have been working on extending the IUE to better support VSAM applications. As VSAM applications tend to be near real time, we needed to provide a means of interaction with a smaller/fast subset of the IUE. We have prototyped, a new set of classes for image filtering which will make it possible to develop standalone image processing oriented programs with no IUE linkage but which can be recompiled/linked to allow full IUE interactions. These classes are highly templated, including the input and output image types, and they allow "non-IUE" image representations to be used. This should allow more rapid integration of this IUE subset into existing systems, with the benefit that the resulting classes will then be usable within the IUE. Over the next few months we will extend our prototype to include a frame grabber interface with processing via IUE "callbacks", and then extend the image classes to provide for bounded ring buffer type storage. We will also be porting our tracking code to the IUE to ensure the extensions will provide support

A second aspect of our IUE related work has been addressing distributed communication and processing using the IUE. We have built upon MPI MPI, a low-level message passing interface, to allow communication of IUE objects between a collection of processes, with the IUE Data Exchange providing for serialization, see . Over the six months we will be developing a "string-oriented" remote access mechanism that will permit remote function execution, and over the next year will explore/development of a CORBA wrapper for the IUE.