Press Release

Crooks, Criminals and Saddam Beware! NASA-Developed Technology Put Lawbreakers Behind Bars

By SpaceRef Editor
June 5, 2003
Filed under ,

From bombings and other homeland security threats, to child abductions, to
verifying the “real” Saddam Hussein, a video enhancement system developed at
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is proving to be a
valuable law enforcement tool. It’s helping agencies investigate crimes –
and, put criminals behind bars.

It’s been an unlikely outcome for an invention that started out as an effort
by two space scientists to come up with a tool to assist in their studies of
the Sun and weather systems on Earth.

The technology known as VISAR – short for Video Image Stabilization and
Registration – can turn dark, jittery images captured by home video,
security systems and video cameras mounted in police cars into clearer,
stable images.

NASA scientists Dr. David Hathaway and Paul Meyer, who study violent
explosions on the Sun and examine hazardous weather conditions on Earth,
created VISAR to aid in their space-program research. Now, through NASA’s
commercial licensing process, the technology has become available in the
marketplace and is increasingly finding applications with down-to-Earth

VISAR has been licensed commercially by Intergraph Corp., of Huntsville and
incorporated into Video Analyst, a workstation that can stabilize and
enhance video, brighten dark pictures and enlarge small sections of pictures
to reveal clues about crimes. The system is built around the
industry-standard Microsoft Windows operating system and Adobe Premiere
video editing software.

“VISAR has a proven track record in delivering solid video evidence and is
of paramount importance in our success with Video Analyst,” said Trey McKay,
manager of Integrated Products Division, Intergraph Solutions Group.

The VISAR “track record” includes about a dozen criminal cases where
Hathaway and Meyer have assisted police departments and the FBI. The first,
and still most notable, in the string of investigations was analysis of
video from the infamous bombing in Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the 1996
Olympic Summer Games. In that incident, Hathaway and Meyer worked with the
bureau to enhance poor quality video clips.

More recently, ABC News asked Intergraph’s Gene Grindstaff to analyze video
clips that aired on Iraqi television March 20, apparently showing Saddam
Hussein. Officials wanted to verify if Hussein survived a U.S. air strike
the previous day, or whether the video was that of a body double. Using
Video Analyst with VISAR, it took about 90 minutes to compare the ABC
footage to prior Iraqi television images of Hussein and determine – with 99
percent certainty – it was Hussein, Grindstaff said.

Demonstrated capabilities such as these apparently are convincing for
customers. A Chicago-area law enforcement association — the South Surburban
Mayors and Managers Association — purchased Video Analyst specifically
based on its inclusion of the NASA-developed VISAR, McKay said. The
association pooled resources to buy Video Analyst and 15 portable units,
making the system available to 43 municipalities in the Illinois counties of
Cook – which includes the city of Chicago – and Wills.

Last year, three Marshall Center employees, including Hathaway, Meyer and
Sammy Nabors of Marshall’s Technology Transfer Department, won the Federal
Laboratory Consortium’s Excellence in Technology Transfer Award for VISAR.
Nabors works with Marshall scientists interested in patenting their
inventions, and his department encourages companies to license products for
commercial applications.

VISAR was named NASA’s Commercial Invention of the Year in March. Hathaway
and Meyer were also nominated by NASA to compete for the national Inventor
of the Year Award and they were among the five finalists in the competition,
which yearly recognizes outstanding American inventors whose work has been
patented or made commercially available.

NASA’s Technology Transfer Program improves life on Earth with technology
developed in the space program. To learn more about VISAR and the Marshall
Center, visit the Marshall Technology Transfer Department Web site at:

SpaceRef staff editor.