How Effective is Human Visual Surveillance Performance?

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Humans, Video surveillance, Computerized monitoring, Computer displays, Costs, Computer vision, Cognition, Psychology, Algorithm design and analysis, Educational institutions

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



In surveillance situations, computer vision systems are often deployed to help humans perform their tasks more effectively. In a typical installation human observers are required to simultaneously monitor a number of video signals. Psychophysical research indicates that there are severe limitations in the ability of humans to monitor simultaneous signals. Do these same limitations extend to surveillance? We present a method for evaluating human surveillance performance in a situation that mimics demands of real world surveillance. A single computer monitor contained either nine display cells or four display cells. Each cell contained a stream of 2 to 4 moving objects. Observers were instructed to signal when a target event occurred - - when one of the objects entered a small square ldquoforbiddenrdquo region in the center of the display. Target events could occur individually or in groups of 2 or 3 temporally close events. The results indicate that the observers missed many targets (60%) when required to monitor 9 displays and many fewer when monitoring 4 displays (20%). Further, there were costs associated with target events occurring in close temporal succession. Understanding these limitations would help computer visions researchers to design algorithms and human-machine interfaces that result in improved overall performance.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Presented at the 2008 19th International Conference on Pattern Recognition on December, 2008 in Tampa, FL., 3 p.