CMU's Own Trekkers Put Face on Algorithms

By Heyl, Eric | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 6, 2009 | Go to article overview
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CMU's Own Trekkers Put Face on Algorithms


Heyl, Eric, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


You probably thought that all computer software company workers did was traffic in deadly dull algorithms.

Not the employees of Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition in the Strip District.

They have painstakingly collected and stored, for convenient online perusal, thousands of individual facial images of characters in 67 episodes of the original "Star Trek" series.

Inventoried are pictures of Kirk looking courageous, Spock looking stoic and Bones looking grim after pronouncing dead yet another no-name extra.

If you're like me, three questions should immediately spring to mind upon hearing of this peculiar exercise in archiving, accessible at http://pittpatt.com/.

The first: "Why in the world would anyone do something like that?"

The second: "No, seriously. Why?"

The third: "Was this enterprise undertaken by particularly lonely Trekkers killing time until Friday's release of the new 'Star Trek' movie [239 191 189 ] the most eagerly anticipated, highly hyped film of the year thus far?

Geekdom this wedgie-worthy deserves to be thoroughly investigated.

So I phoned PittPatt, as its Web site informally refers to the company, and talked with CEO Henry Schneiderman. He founded the company in 2004 with several other Carnegie Mellon University faculty members and researchers.

Surprisingly, not once during our discussion did he mention donning a newly purchased Starfleet uniform to wear to Friday's premiere.

Instead, he explained that Kirk & Co. were methodically indexed to demonstrate PittPatt's cutting-edge computerized cataloging technology for online photos and videos.

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