Mission inscrutable

We get lots of pitches to plug local businesses—from dog groomers to doughnuts. But recently a press release came over the transom that Upfront just had to check out.

A little outfit called the Lakhvinder David Takhar Center for Advanced Studies, which has offices in Sacramento and Yuba City, is up for an award from the Visual Effects Society in Hollywood on February 10.

Lakhvinder was a collaborator on the IMAX movie Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia. According to the company’s Web site, they helped with “informatics, high performance computation, operations and crisis management.” Cool enough, but what really piqued Upfront’s interest was the company’s long and eclectic portfolio.

According to company spokesperson Jas Takhar, Lakhvinder consulted on the TV version of La Femme Nikita, helping producers understand how intelligence agents behave and how they might realistically eavesdrop on people with electronic bugs. Also among the many, many projects in its 25-year history, Lakhvinder designed a “football statistics and analysis system,” a robotic sonar mapping system, and, incongruously, a men’s single-breasted formal dinner jacket.

There are also a whole suite of projects on behalf of the U.S. Air Force concerning “global ambient intelligence,” that cloud of information around us just waiting to be mined by intelligence agencies and corporations. “It could come from satellites, it could come from the chip in your Nike shoe,” Takhar told Upfront. “It could come from your computer, watching what you are doing right now.”

Yikes. Upfront is simultaneously fascinated and creeped out—and after all that, still can’t quite put a finger on what Lakhvinder actually does. “We’re a little mysterious,” Takhar acknowledges. “We don’t mean to be.” No, of course you don’t.