Scientists working with the Mars Society have been walking around the Utah desert in spacesuits, snapping photos of the ground in an attempt to develop image recognition software for use on the Red Planet.

New Scientist says these researchers are attempting to develop software which can take an image of Mars' terrain, and identify any geological structures which might house organic matter. The software hopes to accomplish this by analyzing the color properties of images, breaking down the color, hue and intensity, and pointing out anything that seems irregular in comparison to its surroundings.

All the image processing is done on a computer, which receives the cameraphone images via laptop. The Mars Society says they don't expect cameraphones to be the weapon of choice in space. As for the locale, the Utah desert was picked as a locale, because like Mars, it's extremely dusty.


But not everyone has faith in the project. Researchers in the Netherlands claim that algorithm-based imaging software could never replace real geologists because texture matters as much as color. But Mars Society leader Patrick McGuire thinks future versions of the software will be "superhuman." I guess we'll see. [New Scientist]