To catch an online predator: New A.I. scours chatrooms looking for sex offenders

There’s a new weapon in the war against sex offenders preying on unwitting child victims online — and it comes in teh form of a smart algorithm.

Created by researchers from Purdue University, the artificial intelligence-powered Chat Analysis Triage Tool (CATT) is designed to help law enforcement more easily discover instances of grooming online. Because of the sheer amount of conversation that takes place on the internet, it aims to do a job that would be impossible to carry out without an entire army of dedicated humans: To monitor online conversations and highlight instances in which adults are behaving in a suspiciously inappropriate way.

“CATT analyzes the chats between minors and different types of child sex offenders, specifically offenders [who aim to] meet up with minors for sex in the real world, and fantasy-driven offenders [interested in] cybersex fantasy,” Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar, assistant professor of computer and information technology at Purdue, told Digital Trends. “Law enforcement are bombarded with cases of child sexual solicitation, so our tool triages these cases for law enforcement by analyzing the chats based on differences in language, to provide a risk assessment score on the likelihood that these individuals [might be] a contact-driven offender.”

The algorithm was developed by analyzing 4,353 messages in 107 different chat sessions that involved sex offenders who were later arrested. According to its creators, the tool is robust enough that it can understand messages even when they obfuscate their meaning using acronyms or shorthand — or simply just straightforward spelling errors.

In the future, the researchers say that CATT could also be used to teach undercover officers to better portray underage victims online by revealing constantly changing factors like language, emojis, and acronyms.

“This will be a free tool for law enforcement, and we ask that agencies who are interested in testing our tool reach out to us this summer,” Seigfried-Spellar said. “We are looking for partners to share data and test our tool, so we can have CATT ready for deployment by the end of this year.”

A paper describing the research, “Exploring Detection of Contact vs. Fantasy Online Sexual Offenders in Chats with Minors,” was published in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect.

Cars

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Gaming

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Emerging Tech

Glowing space billboards could show ads in the night sky

Look up at the night sky in 2020 and you might see an ad for McDonald's floating among the stars. A Russian startup is working on a project that uses a constellation of small satellites in low-Earth orbit to create glowing ads.
Emerging Tech

New brainwave reader tells teachers if students are concentrating

Massachusetts-based startup BrainCo has developed brainwave-reading headbands which can reportedly help reveal if students are concentrating in class. Here's how they're being used.
Emerging Tech

Fears about kids’ screen use may have been overblown, Oxford researchers find

Many people take it as gospel that digital technologies are harmful to young people’s mental health. But is this true? A recent study from the University of Oxford takes a closer look.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world will take your breath away

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.
Emerging Tech

Scientists successfully grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish

Researchers have managed to grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish for the first time, and even to successfully implant them into live mice. The results could be a game-changer for diabetes.
Emerging Tech

Tiny animals discovered in Antarctic lake deep beneath the ice

Scientists have made a surprising discovery in Antarctica: the carcasses of tiny animals including crustaceans and a tardigrade were found in a lake that sits deep beneath over half a mile of Antarctic ice.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!