Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Teaching Computers to Defeat Camouflage

In the universal game of hide-and-seek, the seekers are getting help from computers that can seek faster and longer than human eyes can.
May 1, 2017
A flounder relies on camouflage for protection

A flounder relies on camouflage for protection from predators, altering its coloration to blend in with the sea floor.

The name of the game is “find the oddball,” which is far more difficult for computers than for human eyes.

Animals have developed elaborate mechanisms of camouflage to foil the cues upon which animal and human vision rely. Flounder fish are masters of disguise—able to change color to match the sea floor—and also reliable indicators of ocean health. It is therefore important for scientists to have accurate population data, but the acquisition of such data can be frustrated by the flounders’ excellence at hiding. Scientists are using flounder and other camouflage-capable sea creatures to train computers to find hidden objects in photographs. The algorithms can pick out cues such as edges, changes in color, and incongruent textures that often belie concealment. The technology has applications beyond oceanography as well, including medical imaging and national security.