By Harry McCracken | Monday, February 8, 2010 at 3:11 pm
What’s Palm founder Jeff Hawkins–one of the few so-called tech visionaries who really is visionary–up to these days? For the past several years, he’s been concentrating on a startup called Numenta that’s attempting to bring intelligence modeled on the human brain to computers via something it calls Hierarchical Temporal Memory. Another startup called Vitamin D–also founded by early staffers at Hawkins’ Palm and Handspring–is the first company to commercialize Numenta’s research. And it’s releasing the first official shipping version of its first product, Vitamin D Video, today. The software is available as a free download for both Windows and OS X.
Hierarchical Temporal Memory may sound like hifalutin stuff, but Vitamin D Video aims to serve a totally mundane but useful purpose: providing cheaper, more effective video monitoring for security and other applications than existing software does. It’s designed for small businesses and individuals and works with standard Web cams and with relatively low-cost network cameras (such as those offered by Panasonic). And instead of relying on crude motion detection, it’s smart enough to tell human beings from other objects in motion (such as animals and shadows), to pay attention to specific areas in a scene it’s monitoring, and to help you pinpoint the moments you might actually care about.
Here’s a video from Vitamin D that does a good job of explaining and demonstrating all this:
Vitamin D Video’s Starter Edition works with one camera at QVGA resolution and is free; the $49 Basic Edition handles two cameras at VGA resolution; the Pro Edition costs $199 and works with as many cameras as your computer can manage. Even that last one is budget-priced by the standards of more traditional surveillance software.
To mark the software’s formal launch, Vitamin D is holding a contest to find the most “useful, fun, or strange” moments captured with its software. The winner will get something which I suspect will be a popular contest prize in general for the next few months: an iPad.
A few years ago, I was bedeviled by thieves who broke into garage almost weekly, and I could really have benefited from Vitamin D Video and a networked cam. (Only slightly off-topic note: One of the things they swiped was my…shiny new Palm PDA.) These days, I live in a more peaceable neighborhood. I still plan to experiment with the software, though–even if chances are pretty high that the only intruders who it’ll catch on camera are a kittycat or two.