Crowd Behavior Analysis from the Sky Aims to Prevent Tragedy

Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Computer scientists at Middlebury College are working on a way to improve public safety at large public events through computer vision algorithms that detect anomalies in crowd behavior from a drone.  The work is aimed at preventing past tragedies from reoccurring, such has stampedes that kill hundreds of people, and severe overcrowding at public events that lead to suffocation.

Jason Grant and Henry Mount are writing programs based on optical flow clustering – used by computer scientist to detect motion from video feeds.  In this case, the algorithms compare predicted trajectories to observed trajectories of motion within a crowd to detect abnormalities using real time data feeds.  The researchers hope that such data can aid event organizers and first responders in preventing crowd-related disasters.

If successful, such work aligns with pragmatic approaches to behavioral science focused on prediction and influence of behavior.  The algorithms themselves could aid in prediction, but nevertheless still require a human intermediary to interpret the video feed, within a context of concurrent contingencies in place for the organizers and first responders during the event.

Moreover, the influence of crowds themselves require people to intervene.  Optimal policies, or rules of action, for personnel to act in response to the data feed in a functional manner that effectively prevents crowd-related tragedies across different public settings remains to be seen.  Nevertheless, such work offers a valuable line of interdisciplinary research between behavioral scientists and computer scientists for the public good.

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world,  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at [email protected]


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