Six hundred people have registered for the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA)’s Multi-View Stereo 3D Mapping Challenge, which was announced on July 1.

The Mapping Challenge invites people to submit 3-D maps created from IARPA’s vast data sets, most of which come from satellite images. Hakjae Kim, head of IARPA’s CORE3D program, came up with the idea for this challenge in June 2015. Kim said he wanted to engage the community to help analyze and present datasets that IARPA collects, so he began sending emails and creating buzz about his mapping challenge idea.

“I think it’s been well-received,” Kim said. “Previous government agency challenges usually have about 10-20 registrants. Six hundred people is a good number. It’s a big deal.”

The challenge involves two contests, Explorer and Master, which vary in level of difficulty. Participants will have access to IARPA’s satellite data; their task is to create and submit an algorithm to convert high-resolution satellite images to 3-D point clouds.

IARPA starts accepting submissions on July 18. Kim said he does not know how many of the 600 registrants will produce algorithms for the contest. He and his team will numerically evaluate the submissions for accuracy, and will continually update the challenge’s leaderboard as algorithms continue to filter in. They will rank the top five submissions from both the Explorer and Master contests.

Kim said he welcomes submissions from different backgrounds. While he thinks many of his participants will be students in science fields, he looks forward to seeing work from young people who may not be scientifically inclined, but have coding expertise.

“I’m mostly expecting college students. I’m also sending emails to professors,” Kim said. “I’m really excited to see coders’ solutions. Coders without college degrees can do really amazing things.”

Although IARPA has previously held a few contests, this is the first one that deals with 3-D mapping. Kim’s contest joins the host of other challenges sponsored by government agencies that engage community members in managing big data. He said the government has lots of research and development work that can be transformed through outsourcing.

“We continue to communicate with the community, who can provide talent. We want to make them aware of what we do and educate them as to the opportunities within the government. We want to maintain a buzz,” Kim said. “Government research is not charming in terms of money. We’re having a hard time with expertise. This connectivity ensures a good number of talents.”

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Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.