Identifying illegal websites in photos

European computer scientists have developed a way to “read” web addresses in images that could improve filters for blocking pornographic, gambling and other sites. They provide details in the new issue of the International Journal of Reasoning-based Intelligent Systems.

Internet marketers of all shades might add a website address, a URL, to a graphic or photo that might then be found through an image search engine. The user finding such an image may be interested in visiting said site, but will have to type out the URL into their browser’s address bar to do so. Conversely, the URL might point to illicit content – pornography, gambling sites, illegal drugs, terrorist propaganda. In that content, those in authority, whether parents and guardians of children or law enforcement, may wish to automatically blacklist such URLs.

Now, Nikolay Neshov of the Technical University of Sofia, Bulgaria and colleagues at the University of Karlstad, Sweden, and the University of Belgrade, Serbia, have developed a computer algorithm that can detect the presence of text overlaid on to an image or a still from a video, extract the text and convert it into an active URL for accessing or blocking a website.

Simple optical character recognition (OCR) does not work well with text overlaid on images as the background is usually complex, the text is likely to be of lower resolution and lower intensity and contrast than that seen in a scanned document or page, for instance. The new approach uses an identification extraction technique that finds anomalies in an image that would be present if text is overlaid. It then removes the details surrounding those anomalies leaving just the area occupied by any text – the team calls this the binarisation process. This isolated text image can then be fed into an (OCR) system to convert the image of the text into actual text in the computer.

The team has successfully tested their algorithm on thousands of images with overlaid URLs. They were able to identify 619 URLs from a random selection of 1000 test images at a rate of three per second using their approach. Conventional OCR was faster but only found 83 URLs in the same 1000 images, an improvement from about 8% to more than 60%.

The researchers’ initial motivation was to assist computer forensic investigations in which tens of thousands of illegal and illicit photos must be scanned and any associated websites identified quickly in an investigation. This is critical in investigations of child pornography and child sexual abuse, the team reports, but such work is often stymied by the vast numbers of images involved.

Given that internet search companies and other service providers are involved in various initiatives to identify and block illegal material on the internet, this new approach to URL extraction from images could be added to their arsenal of techniques for detecting such content as well as being useful in criminal investigations surrounding said content.

Popova, A., Garcia, J., Neshov, N., Draganov, I. and Brodic, D. (2015) ‘Finding URLs in images by text extraction in DCT domain, recognition and matching in dictionary’, Int. J. Reasoning-based Intelligent Systems, Vol. 7, Nos. 1/2, pp.78–92.

Research Picks September 2015

Robotic safety rules

Domestic robots are not just electrical appliances, Greek researchers suggest, they can and will manage processes and structures in the home environment that involve organisational and cultural aspects. “These robots could be viewed as socio-technical systems since they are operating in the house and the most domestic scenarios depend on close human-robot interaction,” the team says. Despite Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”, there are currently no standards for safety. A new approach to safety standard for a future of domestic robot servants has been developed by researchers in Greece. Their proposal fills a gap not only in the standards domain but most importantly in the approach.

Mitka, E. and Mouroutsos, S.G. (2015) ‘Applying the STAMP system safety engineering methodology to the design of a domestic robot’, Int. J. Applied Systemic Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.81–102

Merging little pharma

The Indian pharmaceutical industry (IPI) is a leader in the developing world, a dynamic and vibrant industry of the developing world. The technology and range of medicines is provides positions it very highly among other developing nationa and it is ranked third in terms of volume of manufacturing. However, under revised pharmaceutical patent laws in India, smaller drug companies might benefit significantly from growing their plant size or else merging with other larger companies to take advantage of the economies of scale and to preclude the significant managerial inefficiencies which currently stymie their economic growth, according to a team at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee.

Mahajan, V., Nauriyal, D.K. and Singh, S.P. (2015) ‘Efficiency trends in the Indian pharmaceutical industry in the new patent regime’, Int. J. Business Performance Management, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp.389–406.

Alien invaders

There is an enormous discrepancy between the scale of damage due to invasive alien species, whether non-indigenous plants or animals, and current expenditure on preventing the spread of such pests in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Tony Jackson of the School of the Environment, at the University of Dundee, recently asked why this should be so: why is such a high-income economy under-investing in biosecurity and is this a more widespread problem? He suggests that a combination of environmental and economic factors has frustrated global efforts to ensure biosecurity and reviews the proposals that have been put forward to remedy this situation.

Jackson, T. (2015) ‘Addressing the economic costs of invasive alien species: some methodological and empirical issues’, Int. J. Sustainable Society, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp.221–240.

The nanotechnology domain

A vast generic research domain, such as nanotechnology, is incredibly complex and spans countless industries. As such, there is a need for improved understanding of how intermediary organisations facilitate the connections between research and development in academia and industry and commercialise the technology that emerges from such a domain. UK researchers have investigated the nature of such intermediaries in the context of knowledge management and have demonstrated that knowledge creation and exploration, knowledge storage, and knowledge transfer capacity are critical to the success of intermediaries. As such, proprietary access to an extensive network database is essential. The team’s conclusions have implications for those utilising such intermediaries.

Mount, M., Milewski, S. and Fernandes, K. (2015) ‘Exploring the knowledge complexities of innovation intermediaries: the case of nanotechnology in the UK’, Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 69, No. 1, pp.20–37.

Microbeam radiation therapy

Both the efficacy and side effects of radiation therapy depend not only on the exposure dose but also on the volume of tissue exposed to that radiation. As a general rule, the smaller the volume, the greater the tolerance. As such, microbeam radiation therapy, which relies on the high power and pinpoint accuracy of synchrotron X-rays has for the last two decades or so been the focus of pre-clinical studies on various laboratory mammals. The planar microbeams are generated by a multi-slit collimator in the synchrotron, which cuts the emerging X-rays into horizontal beam slices tens of micrometres thick. Typically, target tissues are exposed to multiple quasi-parallel slices separated by a few hundred micrometres.

Now, Sigen Wang of the FROS Radiation Oncology Cyberknife Center, at Manhattan Radiation Oncology, in New York City and Xin Qian of the Department of Radiation Oncology, at New York Presbyterian Hospital, part of Columbia University, also in NYC, USA have reviewed this promising medical technology in the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design. They point out that the state of the art preclinical studies suggest that radiation doses as high as several hundred Greys are surprisingly well tolerated by healthy tissues. Moreover, these same microbeams cause preferential damage to malignant tumour tissues.

The benefits to treating tumours that are close to sensitive organs in diseases such as ocular melanoma, pituitary adenoma, and tumours of the spinal cord, could be substantial. In addition, the same technology might also be extended to the treatment of other diseased tissues such as those brain tissues invoked in epilepsy and movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. “The potential of microbeams for central nervous system (CNS) research is very large,” the team says. “Our review shows that microbeams can selectively ablate slices of neurons, oligodendrocytes, and astrocytes in the CNS because of the differential dose sensitivity of different cell types, without causing tissue necrosis.”

Wang, S. and Qian, X. (2015) ‘Microbeam radiation therapy: a review’, Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp.127-138. Wang, S. and Qian, X. (2015) ‘Microbeam radiation therapy: a review‘, Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp.127-138.