Police hear a pitch for free body cameras, with a side of AI


Axon, which changed its name from Taser, is offering every police department free body cameras.


Nearly a half-million body cameras are now ready and waiting for police officers to wear them.

And those cameras won’t just be recording what the cops do. They’ll also be helping artificial intelligence get smarter.

Axon — you used to know it as Taser — announced Wednesday that it’s offering body cameras for free to all police departments in the US for up to one year. If officers opt in for Axon’s data collection, the company will get much-needed data to build its artificial intelligence program.

That’ll be yet another step in the march of progress for AI, which is infiltrating seemingly every job, from insurance agent to bartender. Body camera makers such as Axon and Vievu want to let machines sort through vast amounts of video so police officers can spend less time behind computers. The AI systems would learn to recognize faces, weapons and voices, transforming tedium into an automated process.

How tedious? Axon manages about 6,000 terabytes of video from its offices in Seattle, and the process of storing footage, making clips and redacting faces currently drags on and on — for instance, it can take four hours of work for a police department to release an hour-long video. That would be streamlined through AI’s machine learning capabilities — essentially, the software gets better and better at teaching itself, the more data it works through.

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