It’s the 21st century and technology is becoming more and more advanced every single day. So much so, that we don’t even bat an eyelid when we hear phrases such as; Artificial Intelligence (AI), self-driving cars and facial recognition anymore. Which, when you think about it, is quite crazy considering the World Wide Web has only been around for 28 years! We are going to take a look at how one type of AI has been integrated into our everyday lives. And, the scary thing is, many of us haven’t even noticed! That’s right, we’re talking about Computer Vision Technology.
Barcodes and QR Codes
One of the most common examples of computer vision is one we come into contact with pretty much every time we purchase something from a shop. The barcode. This uses relatively simple computer vision to identify the specific shape of a barcode, this then correlates with the particular product the barcode was on. From this, the till knows what the product is and how much it costs. Taking this a step further you can now use apps on your smartphone that identify products if you take a picture of the barcode. As we are continually connected to the internet through our smartphones, the app can then search the web to tell you any number of things. This can be from nutritional values to places you can purchase the product.
Next is QR codes. You know those funny looking black and white squares you often find on food packets or magazines. That is a QR code. This method of computer vision has been around for a while now and usually links to a URL. When you use your phone to scan the QR code it will be able to identify the exact pattern of the QR code. From this, your phone knows which website URL is linked to that particular pattern. You can then load the associated webpage or landing page.
Facebook Now Helps Blind People to ‘See’
Another place we have seen computer vision being used is on social media. I’m not just talking about Snapchat recognising your face so that you can superimpose a pair of bunny ears onto your head (although that is computer vision). I’m talking about Facebook being able to ‘see’ images through computer vision. This has had a hugely positive impact on the visually impaired that use Facebook. As Facebook can ‘see’ a photo and understand the contents of the image. You can now click on a photo and Facebook can identify what is in that image and read it out loud.
For example, a picture of a house and a garden. Facebook will tell the visually impaired user out loud using their smartphone what is in the picture. For example, that there is a house, with a path in the garden and in the garden, there are pink and yellow flowers and a small dog. I bet you’ve got a pretty good image in your head of what that picture looked like. Right? Through computer vision, this can be achieved for each of the 350 million photos uploaded to Facebook every day. Personally, I think that’s pretty amazing!
Computer Vision for Consumers
There are many different ways in which consumers use computer vision. In banking for example. There are apps out there that allow you to take a photo of a paper check with your smartphone. Once the image has been captured, the app can verify that the signature on the check is genuine so that the payment can go through. This is all achieved through computer vision.
Another way in which computer vision has been integrated into our lives is the use of Amazon Echo Look. Much like ‘Alexa’ that you are most likely familiar with, the Echo Look is a voice-controlled, hands-free selfie stick. You can say commands such as ‘Alexa, take a picture’ and the device will do just that. Once you have your full body selfie (or video), computer vision comes into play. The device will identify what you’re wearing and give you suggestions on outfits similar to the styles you like to wear. You can also choose to compare different outfits based on how stylish they are. The device will rate how stylish each outfit is as a percentage, you can then choose the ‘most stylish’ outfit for any occasion!
While it may seem strange that people are trusting an electronic device to choose what they wear in the morning. It is safe to say this is one way in consumers are using computer vision on an almost daily basis.
Computer Vision for Home Security
Today, many low-cost home security cameras are utilising computer vision. Specifically Netatmo’s Presence outdoor surveillance cameras. Through computer vision, these cameras can identify and notify the homeowner when a car, person or animal has entered into a property. Netatmo’s Welcome cameras take this a step further. The company has developed a security camera that uses facial recognition software to notify the homeowner when welcomed visitors or unwelcome intruders enter a property. Crazy isn’t it? Hopefully, you’re beginning to understand how many different avenues utilise computer vision in today’s world. But, it doesn’t stop there. Computer vision is crucial for law enforcement as well as home security.
Computer Vision for Law Enforcement
Like we mentioned in the section above, computer vision is fundamental to many different sectors including law enforcement. One area is for traffic police. Using computer vision the thousands of cameras on our roads are able to identify number plates be ‘seeing’ the outline of the letters and numbers. They can even be used to identify the shapes of specific car types. To try and clarify the scale of computer vision being used in law enforcement, check out this stat…
More than 70% of police departments are using this type of computer vision to detect license plates. It has been reported that one officer in Montgomery used this technology to scan more than 48’000 licence plates in a 96-hour period. This led to; 255 traffic citations, 26 suspended drivers being caught, 4 stolen vehicles were found and 1 expired licence plate!
Computer vision in law enforcement doesn’t stop there either. Facial recognition is now used on a wide scale to identify suspected criminals. Computer vision can identify the outline of faces and match them to photos on the national database. With 50% of Americans having submitted their driving license photos to the national database, you can see the large scale of people that this can identify! Fundamental to law enforcement if you ask me.
Computer Vision for Reporting Faults
There are many different industries that use computer vision in order to identify potential faults in workplace systems. The way in which this works is using cameras in order to monitor the positions of things such as valves. The camera will recognise the position of a valve and compare it to its optimum position. If the position of the valve doesn’t match up to the optimum position, the system will report a fault to a maintenance team. They can then sort out the problem before any potentially dangerous accidents occur. The list of industries that use computer vision for this is endless. But, here are a few to give you an idea of the importance of computer vision in modern day diagnostics;
- Oil and Gas Companies
- Chemical Factories
- Petrol Refineries
- Nuclear Power Plants
We hope you found this post as interesting as we did! We’ve managed to cover a few different ways in which computer vision has already entered our lives, with many of us not even realising. The potential for computer vision in the future is massive! Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post about the future of computer vision.