You could soon be spied on by robots. Scientists are working on a new system that would enable robots and other autonomous devices to cooperate in spotting and tracking objects. According to researchers at Cornell University, robots could be much more effective at security surveillance by quickly tracking and communicating information.

The new research, backed by the US Office of Naval Research (ONS) was awarded a $1.7m grant and may have applications beyond surveillance. Researchers believe the new technology may also help in cases where robots are used to relieve humans of dangerous jobs such as cleaning up a nuclear meltdown, disposing of landmines and surveying the damage after a natural disaster like a hurricane or an earthquake.

"Once you have robots that cooperate you can do all sorts of things," Kilian Weinberger, associate professor of computer science at Cornell, said in a statement. The research involves testing the system, such as identifying a particular face and then tracking the face in a crowd, according to Weinberger.

The research will make use of deep learning to enable computers to interpret images and "Bayesian modelling," which will allow the bot to seamlessly and continuously update itself about the surrounding world, as it gathers new data.

Cornell's campus will be the first testing area, where researchers plan to deploy their robots to "surveil" crowded areas while gathering data from existing webcams. The research may also later be incorporated by the US Navy when deploying surveillance aircraft or autonomous vehicles.