The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said such a system would perform visual ground surveillance tasks now performed by troops.
"Ground surveillance is a mission normally performed by human assets, including Army scouts and Marine Corps Force Recon," DARPA said. "Military leaders would like to shift this mission to unmanned systems, removing troops from harm's way, but unmanned systems lack a capability that currently exists only in humans: visual intelligence.
"The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is addressing this problem with Mind's Eye, a program aimed at developing a visual intelligence capability for unmanned systems."
It said the military anticipates a significant increase in the role of unmanned systems in support of future operations, including jobs like persistent stare. By performing persistent stare, camera-equipped unmanned ground vehicles would take scouts out of harm's way.
Such a capability, however, wouldn't constitute a force multiplier because human analysts would have to interpret video from the platforms to detect operationally significant activities.
"A truly transformative capability requires visual intelligence, enabling these platforms to detect operationally significant activity and report on that activity so warfighters can focus on important events in a timely manner."
The research teams contracted by DARPA are: Carnegie Mellon University, Co57 Systems, Inc., Colorado State University, Jet Propulsion Laboratory/CALTECH, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue University, SRI International, State University of New York at Buffalo, TNO (Netherlands), University of Arizona, University of California Berkeley and the University of Southern California.
DARPA said the teams will develop a software sub-system suitable for employment on a camera for man-portable UGVs, integrating existing state of the art computer vision and AI while making novel contributions in visual event learning, new spatiotemporal representations, machine-generated envisionment, visual inspection and grounding of visual concepts.
DARPA has also contracted with three teams to develop system integration concepts: General Dynamics Robotic Systems, iRobot and Toyon Research Corp.