It's a tough life trying to show off a state-of-the-art security monitoring system -- especially when helpful humans keep ruining the demo.
On Wednesday, Japanese electronics giant NEC was showing off some of its latest products at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art.
The small exhibition space was used to showcase a number of products in various "real life" scenarios, such as a hospital room, classroom, living room and call centre.
One of the most interesting demos was an intelligent security system that could be used to monitor an airport lobby, train station or other public areas.
It was plugged into several CCTV cameras and programmed to recognise unattended packages. We were told it made life easier for (human) security guards because they would no longer have to sit in front of a screen. Instead, they could be alerted when the computer recognised a predefined "dangerous" situation.
The system uses a tiny fraction of usual disk space required because it only records footage when an alert has been triggered.
To show off how sensitive the camera was, the demonstrator would throw a wallet onto the floor next to the exhibition stand and wait for an alert to be issued.
When it worked, the result was breathtaking. Within a few seconds of the wallet landing on the floor, an LCD screen would display the appropriate camera feed and highlight the object by enclosing it in a bright red box.
However, there was a recurring problem.
A significant proportion of the demonstrations had to be restarted because before the security system could detect the wallet, some helpful person that just happened to be walking past would notice the item on the floor and pick it up.
Immediately realising they had ruined the demonstration -- because suddenly half a dozen people would burst into laughter -- they would walk away embarrassed.
Before long it turned into a running joke and the stand had a small crowd of spectators -- they were not watching the demo but instead waiting to see who would be the next victim of the demo.
This truly impressive piece of kit, which has some very obvious and useful applications, provided a very expensive source of amusement. Next time they do the demo, maybe they should keep the helpful humans away?