Computers trained to solve crimes by bingeing on TV drama

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Computers are being trained to solve problems by bingeing on episodes of a popular TV crime drama.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh mapped footage, script and background sounds from five seasons of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) into a machine-readable format. The data was fed into a computer model that learned to process the plot as each episode unfolded, continually revising the criminal’s identity.

The computer correctly identified the perpetrator during the final part of an episode 60 per cent of the time. People who watched the same shows were able to identify who was responsible 85 per cent of the time, the study found.

Scientists taught machines to approach solving the crimes in the same way that people would – by considering which characters might be responsible from their behaviour as the plot unfolds.

The study, published in Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, was funded by the European Research Council and H2020.

Dr Lea Frermann, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, said: “Pinpointing the perpetrator in a TV show is a very difficult task for computers, but our model performed encouragingly well. We hope our findings will aid the development of machines that can take on board – and make sense of – large streams of information in real time.”

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