Computer vision

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Computer vision is an interdisciplinary scientific field that deals with how computers can be made to gain high-level understanding from digital images or videos. From the perspective of engineering, it seeks to automate tasks that the human visual system can do. [1] [2] [3]

Contents

Computer vision tasks include methods for acquiring, processing, analyzing and understanding digital images, and extraction of high-dimensional data from the real world in order to produce numerical or symbolic information, e.g. in the forms of decisions. [4] [5] [6] [7] Understanding in this context means the transformation of visual images (the input of the retina) into descriptions of the world that can interface with other thought processes and elicit appropriate action. This image understanding can be seen as the disentangling of symbolic information from image data using models constructed with the aid of geometry, physics, statistics, and learning theory. [8]

The scientific discipline of computer vision is concerned with the theory behind artificial systems that extract information from images. The image data can take many forms, such as video sequences, views from multiple cameras, or multi-dimensional data from a medical scanner. The technological discipline of computer vision seeks to apply its theories and models to the construction of computer vision systems.

Sub-domains of computer vision include scene reconstruction, event detection, video tracking, object recognition, 3D pose estimation, learning, indexing, motion estimation, and image restoration. [6]

Definition

Computer vision is an interdisciplinary field that deals with how computers can be made to gain high-level understanding from digital images or videos. From the perspective of engineering, it seeks to automate tasks that the human visual system can do. [1] [2] [3] "Computer vision is concerned with the automatic extraction, analysis and understanding of useful information from a single image or a sequence of images. It involves the development of a theoretical and algorithmic basis to achieve automatic visual understanding." [9] As a scientific discipline, computer vision is concerned with the theory behind artificial systems that extract information from images. The image data can take many forms, such as video sequences, views from multiple cameras, or multi-dimensional data from a medical scanner. [10] As a technological discipline, computer vision seeks to apply its theories and models for the construction of computer vision systems.

History

In the late 1960s, computer vision began at universities which were pioneering artificial intelligence. It was meant to mimic the human visual system, as a stepping stone to endowing robots with intelligent behavior. [11] In 1966, it was believed that this could be achieved through a summer project, by attaching a camera to a computer and having it "describe what it saw". [12] [13]

What distinguished computer vision from the prevalent field of digital image processing at that time was a desire to extract three-dimensional structure from images with the goal of achieving full scene understanding. Studies in the 1970s formed the early foundations for many of the computer vision algorithms that exist today, including extraction of edges from images, labeling of lines, non-polyhedral and polyhedral modeling, representation of objects as interconnections of smaller structures, optical flow, and motion estimation. [11]

The next decade saw studies based on more rigorous mathematical analysis and quantitative aspects of computer vision. These include the concept of scale-space, the inference of shape from various cues such as shading, texture and focus, and contour models known as snakes. Researchers also realized that many of these mathematical concepts could be treated within the same optimization framework as regularization and Markov random fields. [14] By the 1990s, some of the previous research topics became more active than the others. Research in projective 3-D reconstructions led to better understanding of camera calibration. With the advent of optimization methods for camera calibration, it was realized that a lot of the ideas were already explored in bundle adjustment theory from the field of photogrammetry. This led to methods for sparse 3-D reconstructions of scenes from multiple images. Progress was made on the dense stereo correspondence problem and further multi-view stereo techniques. At the same time, variations of graph cut were used to solve image segmentation. This decade also marked the first time statistical learning techniques were used in practice to recognize faces in images (see Eigenface). Toward the end of the 1990s, a significant change came about with the increased interaction between the fields of computer graphics and computer vision. This included image-based rendering, image morphing, view interpolation, panoramic image stitching and early light-field rendering. [11]

Recent work has seen the resurgence of feature-based methods, used in conjunction with machine learning techniques and complex optimization frameworks. [15] [16] . The advancement of Deep Learning techniques has brought further life to the field of computer vision. The accuracy of deep learning algorithms on several benchmark computer vision data sets for tasks ranging from classification, segmentation and optical flow has surpassed prior methods. [ citation needed ]

Artificial intelligence

Areas of artificial intelligence deal with autonomous planning or deliberation for robotic systems to navigate through an environment. A detailed understanding of these environments is required to navigate through them. Information about the environment could be provided by a computer vision system, acting as a vision sensor and providing high-level information about the environment and the robot.

Artificial intelligence and computer vision share other topics such as pattern recognition and learning techniques. Consequently, computer vision is sometimes seen as a part of the artificial intelligence field or the computer science field in general.

Information engineering

Computer vision is often considered to be part of information engineering. [17] [18]

Solid-state physics

Solid-state physics is another field that is closely related to computer vision. Most computer vision systems rely on image sensors, which detect electromagnetic radiation, which is typically in the form of either visible or infra-red light. The sensors are designed using quantum physics. The process by which light interacts with surfaces is explained using physics. Physics explains the behavior of optics which are a core part of most imaging systems. Sophisticated image sensors even require quantum mechanics to provide a complete understanding of the image formation process. [11] Also, various measurement problems in physics can be addressed using computer vision, for example motion in fluids.

Neurobiology

A third field which plays an important role is neurobiology, specifically the study of the biological vision system. Over the last century, there has been an extensive study of eyes, neurons, and the brain structures devoted to processing of visual stimuli in both humans and various animals. This has led to a coarse, yet complicated, description of how "real" vision systems operate in order to solve certain vision-related tasks. These results have led to a subfield within computer vision where artificial systems are designed to mimic the processing and behavior of biological systems, at different levels of complexity. Also, some of the learning-based methods developed within computer vision (e.g. neural net and deep learning based image and feature analysis and classification) have their background in biology.

Some strands of computer vision research are closely related to the study of biological vision – indeed, just as many strands of AI research are closely tied with research into human consciousness, and the use of stored knowledge to interpret, integrate and utilize visual information. The field of biological vision studies and models the physiological processes behind visual perception in humans and other animals. Computer vision, on the other hand, studies and describes the processes implemented in software and hardware behind artificial vision systems. Interdisciplinary exchange between biological and computer vision has proven fruitful for both fields. [19]

Signal processing

Yet another field related to computer vision is signal processing. Many methods for processing of one-variable signals, typically temporal signals, can be extended in a natural way to processing of two-variable signals or multi-variable signals in computer vision. However, because of the specific nature of images there are many methods developed within computer vision which have no counterpart in processing of one-variable signals. Together with the multi-dimensionality of the signal, this defines a subfield in signal processing as a part of computer vision.

Other fields

Beside the above-mentioned views on computer vision, many of the related research topics can also be studied from a purely mathematical point of view. For example, many methods in computer vision are based on statistics, optimization or geometry. Finally, a significant part of the field is devoted to the implementation aspect of computer vision; how existing methods can be realized in various combinations of software and hardware, or how these methods can be modified in order to gain processing speed without losing too much performance. Computer vision is also used in fashion ecommerce, inventory management, patent search, furniture, and the beauty industry.[ citation needed ]

Distinctions

The fields most closely related to computer vision are image processing, image analysis and machine vision. There is a significant overlap in the range of techniques and applications that these cover. This implies that the basic techniques that are used and developed in these fields are similar, something which can be interpreted as there is only one field with different names. On the other hand, it appears to be necessary for research groups, scientific journals, conferences and companies to present or market themselves as belonging specifically to one of these fields and, hence, various characterizations which distinguish each of the fields from the others have been presented.

Computer graphics produces image data from 3D models, computer vision often produces 3D models from image data. [20] There is also a trend towards a combination of the two disciplines, e.g., as explored in augmented reality.

The following characterizations appear relevant but should not be taken as universally accepted::

Photogrammetry also overlaps with computer vision, e.g., stereophotogrammetry vs. computer stereo vision.

Applications

Applications range from tasks such as industrial machine vision systems which, say, inspect bottles speeding by on a production line, to research into artificial intelligence and computers or robots that can comprehend the world around them. The computer vision and machine vision fields have significant overlap. Computer vision covers the core technology of automated image analysis which is used in many fields. Machine vision usually refers to a process of combining automated image analysis with other methods and technologies to provide automated inspection and robot guidance in industrial applications. In many computer-vision applications, the computers are pre-programmed to solve a particular task, but methods based on learning are now becoming increasingly common. Examples of applications of computer vision include systems for:

Learning 3D shapes has been a challenging task in computer vision. Recent advances in deep learning has enabled researchers to build models that are able to generate and reconstruct 3D shapes from single or multi-view depth maps or silhouettes seamlessly and efficiently Synthesizing 3D Shapes via Modeling Multi-View Depth Maps and Silhouettes With Deep Generative Networks.png
Learning 3D shapes has been a challenging task in computer vision. Recent advances in deep learning has enabled researchers to build models that are able to generate and reconstruct 3D shapes from single or multi-view depth maps or silhouettes seamlessly and efficiently
DARPA's Visual Media Reasoning concept video

One of the most prominent application fields is medical computer vision, or medical image processing, characterized by the extraction of information from image data to diagnose a patient. An example of this is detection of tumours, arteriosclerosis or other malign changes; measurements of organ dimensions, blood flow, etc. are another example. It also supports medical research by providing new information: e.g., about the structure of the brain, or about the quality of medical treatments. Applications of computer vision in the medical area also includes enhancement of images interpreted by humans—ultrasonic images or X-ray images for example—to reduce the influence of noise.

A second application area in computer vision is in industry, sometimes called machine vision, where information is extracted for the purpose of supporting a manufacturing process. One example is quality control where details or final products are being automatically inspected in order to find defects. Another example is measurement of position and orientation of details to be picked up by a robot arm. Machine vision is also heavily used in agricultural process to remove undesirable food stuff from bulk material, a process called optical sorting. [24]

Military applications are probably one of the largest areas for computer vision. The obvious examples are detection of enemy soldiers or vehicles and missile guidance. More advanced systems for missile guidance send the missile to an area rather than a specific target, and target selection is made when the missile reaches the area based on locally acquired image data. Modern military concepts, such as "battlefield awareness", imply that various sensors, including image sensors, provide a rich set of information about a combat scene which can be used to support strategic decisions. In this case, automatic processing of the data is used to reduce complexity and to fuse information from multiple sensors to increase reliability.

Artist's concept of a Mars Exploration Rover, an example of an unmanned land-based vehicle. Notice the stereo cameras mounted on top of the rover. NASA Mars Rover.jpg
Artist's concept of a Mars Exploration Rover, an example of an unmanned land-based vehicle. Notice the stereo cameras mounted on top of the rover.

One of the newer application areas is autonomous vehicles, which include submersibles, land-based vehicles (small robots with wheels, cars or trucks), aerial vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The level of autonomy ranges from fully autonomous (unmanned) vehicles to vehicles where computer-vision-based systems support a driver or a pilot in various situations. Fully autonomous vehicles typically use computer vision for navigation, e.g. for knowing where it is, or for producing a map of its environment (SLAM) and for detecting obstacles. It can also be used for detecting certain task specific events, e.g., a UAV looking for forest fires. Examples of supporting systems are obstacle warning systems in cars, and systems for autonomous landing of aircraft. Several car manufacturers have demonstrated systems for autonomous driving of cars, but this technology has still not reached a level where it can be put on the market. There are ample examples of military autonomous vehicles ranging from advanced missiles to UAVs for recon missions or missile guidance. Space exploration is already being made with autonomous vehicles using computer vision, e.g., NASA's Mars Exploration Rover and ESA's ExoMars Rover.

Other application areas include:

Typical tasks

Each of the application areas described above employ a range of computer vision tasks; more or less well-defined measurement problems or processing problems, which can be solved using a variety of methods. Some examples of typical computer vision tasks are presented below.

Computer vision tasks include methods for acquiring, processing, analyzing and understanding digital images, and extraction of high-dimensional data from the real world in order to produce numerical or symbolic information, e.g., in the forms of decisions. [4] [5] [6] [7] Understanding in this context means the transformation of visual images (the input of the retina) into descriptions of the world that can interface with other thought processes and elicit appropriate action. This image understanding can be seen as the disentangling of symbolic information from image data using models constructed with the aid of geometry, physics, statistics, and learning theory. [8]

Recognition

The classical problem in computer vision, image processing, and machine vision is that of determining whether or not the image data contains some specific object, feature, or activity. Different varieties of the recognition problem are described in the literature:[ citation needed ]

Currently, the best algorithms for such tasks are based on convolutional neural networks. An illustration of their capabilities is given by the ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge; this is a benchmark in object classification and detection, with millions of images and hundreds of object classes. Performance of convolutional neural networks, on the ImageNet tests, is now close to that of humans. [26] The best algorithms still struggle with objects that are small or thin, such as a small ant on a stem of a flower or a person holding a quill in their hand. They also have trouble with images that have been distorted with filters (an increasingly common phenomenon with modern digital cameras). By contrast, those kinds of images rarely trouble humans. Humans, however, tend to have trouble with other issues. For example, they are not good at classifying objects into fine-grained classes, such as the particular breed of dog or species of bird, whereas convolutional neural networks handle this with ease.

Several specialized tasks based on recognition exist, such as:

Computer vision for people counter purposes in public places, malls, shopping centres SRT Shape Recognition Technology.png
Computer vision for people counter purposes in public places, malls, shopping centres

Motion analysis

Several tasks relate to motion estimation where an image sequence is processed to produce an estimate of the velocity either at each points in the image or in the 3D scene, or even of the camera that produces the images . Examples of such tasks are:

Scene reconstruction

Given one or (typically) more images of a scene, or a video, scene reconstruction aims at computing a 3D model of the scene. In the simplest case the model can be a set of 3D points. More sophisticated methods produce a complete 3D surface model. The advent of 3D imaging not requiring motion or scanning, and related processing algorithms is enabling rapid advances in this field. Grid-based 3D sensing can be used to acquire 3D images from multiple angles. Algorithms are now available to stitch multiple 3D images together into point clouds and 3D models. [20]

Image restoration

The aim of image restoration is the removal of noise (sensor noise, motion blur, etc.) from images. The simplest possible approach for noise removal is various types of filters such as low-pass filters or median filters. More sophisticated methods assume a model of how the local image structures look, to distinguish them from noise. By first analysing the image data in terms of the local image structures, such as lines or edges, and then controlling the filtering based on local information from the analysis step, a better level of noise removal is usually obtained compared to the simpler approaches.

An example in this field is inpainting.

System methods

The organization of a computer vision system is highly application-dependent. Some systems are stand-alone applications that solve a specific measurement or detection problem, while others constitute a sub-system of a larger design which, for example, also contains sub-systems for control of mechanical actuators, planning, information databases, man-machine interfaces, etc. The specific implementation of a computer vision system also depends on whether its functionality is pre-specified or if some part of it can be learned or modified during operation. Many functions are unique to the application. There are, however, typical functions that are found in many computer vision systems.

More complex features may be related to texture, shape or motion.

Image-understanding systems

Image-understanding systems (IUS) include three levels of abstraction as follows: low level includes image primitives such as edges, texture elements, or regions; intermediate level includes boundaries, surfaces and volumes; and high level includes objects, scenes, or events. Many of these requirements are entirely topics for further research.

The representational requirements in the designing of IUS for these levels are: representation of prototypical concepts, concept organization, spatial knowledge, temporal knowledge, scaling, and description by comparison and differentiation.

While inference refers to the process of deriving new, not explicitly represented facts from currently known facts, control refers to the process that selects which of the many inference, search, and matching techniques should be applied at a particular stage of processing. Inference and control requirements for IUS are: search and hypothesis activation, matching and hypothesis testing, generation and use of expectations, change and focus of attention, certainty and strength of belief, inference and goal satisfaction. [30]

Hardware

There are many kinds of computer vision systems; however, all of them contain these basic elements: a power source, at least one image acquisition device (camera, ccd, etc.), a processor, and control and communication cables or some kind of wireless interconnection mechanism. In addition, a practical vision system contains software, as well as a display in order to monitor the system. Vision systems for inner spaces, as most industrial ones, contain an illumination system and may be placed in a controlled environment. Furthermore, a completed system includes many accessories such as camera supports, cables and connectors.

Most computer vision systems use visible-light cameras passively viewing a scene at frame rates of at most 60 frames per second (usually far slower).

A few computer vision systems use image-acquisition hardware with active illumination or something other than visible light or both, such as structured-light 3D scanners, thermographic cameras, hyperspectral imagers, radar imaging, lidar scanners, magnetic resonance images, side-scan sonar, synthetic aperture sonar, etc. Such hardware captures "images" that are then processed often using the same computer vision algorithms used to process visible-light images.

While traditional broadcast and consumer video systems operate at a rate of 30 frames per second, advances in digital signal processing and consumer graphics hardware has made high-speed image acquisition, processing, and display possible for real-time systems on the order of hundreds to thousands of frames per second. For applications in robotics, fast, real-time video systems are critically important and often can simplify the processing needed for certain algorithms. When combined with a high-speed projector, fast image acquisition allows 3D measurement and feature tracking to be realised. [31]

Egocentric vision systems are composed of a wearable camera that automatically take pictures from a first-person perspective.

As of 2016, vision processing units are emerging as a new class of processor, to complement CPUs and graphics processing units (GPUs) in this role. [32]

See also

Lists

Related Research Articles

Machine vision

Machine vision (MV) is the technology and methods used to provide imaging-based automatic inspection and analysis for such applications as automatic inspection, process control, and robot guidance, usually in industry. Machine vision refers to many technologies, software and hardware products, integrated systems, actions, methods and expertise. Machine vision as a systems engineering discipline can be considered distinct from computer vision, a form of computer science. It attempts to integrate existing technologies in new ways and apply them to solve real world problems. The term is the prevalent one for these functions in industrial automation environments but is also used for these functions in other environments such as security and vehicle guidance.

Image analysis is the extraction of meaningful information from images; mainly from digital images by means of digital image processing techniques. Image analysis tasks can be as simple as reading bar coded tags or as sophisticated as identifying a person from their face.

Image segmentation segmentation in digital image processing

In computer vision, image segmentation is the process of partitioning a digital image into multiple segments. The goal of segmentation is to simplify and/or change the representation of an image into something that is more meaningful and easier to analyze. Image segmentation is typically used to locate objects and boundaries in images. More precisely, image segmentation is the process of assigning a label to every pixel in an image such that pixels with the same label share certain characteristics.

Optical flow pattern of apparent motion of objects, surfaces, and edges in a visual scene caused by the relative motion between an observer and a scene

Optical flow or optic flow is the pattern of apparent motion of objects, surfaces, and edges in a visual scene caused by the relative motion between an observer and a scene. Optical flow can also be defined as the distribution of apparent velocities of movement of brightness pattern in an image. The concept of optical flow was introduced by the American psychologist James J. Gibson in the 1940s to describe the visual stimulus provided to animals moving through the world. Gibson stressed the importance of optic flow for affordance perception, the ability to discern possibilities for action within the environment. Followers of Gibson and his ecological approach to psychology have further demonstrated the role of the optical flow stimulus for the perception of movement by the observer in the world; perception of the shape, distance and movement of objects in the world; and the control of locomotion.

Motion detection is the process of detecting a change in the position of an object relative to its surroundings or a change in the surroundings relative to an object. Motion detection can be achieved by either mechanical or electronic methods. When motion detection is accomplished by natural organisms, it is called motion perception.

Gesture recognition topic in computer science

Gesture recognition is a topic in computer science and language technology with the goal of interpreting human gestures via mathematical algorithms. Gestures can originate from any bodily motion or state but commonly originate from the face or hand. Current focuses in the field include emotion recognition from face and hand gesture recognition. Users can use simple gestures to control or interact with devices without physically touching them. Many approaches have been made using cameras and computer vision algorithms to interpret sign language. However, the identification and recognition of posture, gait, proxemics, and human behaviors is also the subject of gesture recognition techniques. Gesture recognition can be seen as a way for computers to begin to understand human body language, thus building a richer bridge between machines and humans than primitive text user interfaces or even GUIs, which still limit the majority of input to keyboard and mouse and interact naturally without any mechanical devices. Using the concept of gesture recognition, it is possible to point a finger at this point will move accordingly. This could make conventional input on devices such and even redundant.

Smart camera

A smart camera or intelligent camera is a machine vision system which, in addition to image capture circuitry, is capable of extracting application-specific information from the captured images, along with generating event descriptions or making decisions that are used in an intelligent and automated system. A smart camera is a self-contained, standalone vision system with built-in image sensor in the housing of an industrial video camera. It contains all necessary communication interfaces, e.g. Ethernet, as well as industry-proof 24V I/O lines for connection to a PLC, actuators, relays or pneumatic valves. It is not necessarily larger than an industrial or surveillance camera. A capability in machine vision generally means a degree of development such that these capabilities are ready for use on individual applications. This architecture has the advantage of a more compact volume compared to PC-based vision systems and often achieves lower cost, at the expense of a somewhat simpler user interface. Less powerful versions are often referred to as smart sensors.

In computer vision and robotics, a typical task is to identify specific objects in an image and to determine each object's position and orientation relative to some coordinate system. This information can then be used, for example, to allow a robot to manipulate an object or to avoid moving into the object. The combination of position and orientation is referred to as the pose of an object, even though this concept is sometimes used only to describe the orientation. Exterior orientation and translation are also used as synonyms of pose.

The following are common definitions related to the machine vision field.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to computer vision:

The stereo cameras approach is a method of distilling a noisy video signal into a coherent data set that a computer can begin to process into actionable symbolic objects, or abstractions. Stereo cameras is one of many approaches used in the broader fields of computer vision and machine vision.

A visual sensor network is a network of spatially distributed smart camera devices capable of processing and fusing images of a scene from a variety of viewpoints into some form more useful than the individual images. A visual sensor network may be a type of wireless sensor network, and much of the theory and application of the latter applies to the former. The network generally consists of the cameras themselves, which have some local image processing, communication and storage capabilities, and possibly one or more central computers, where image data from multiple cameras is further processed and fused. Visual sensor networks also provide some high-level services to the user so that the large amount of data can be distilled into information of interest using specific queries.

Range segmentation is the task of segmenting (dividing) a range image, an image containing depth information for each pixel, into segments (regions), so that all the points of the same surface belong to the same region, there is no overlap between different regions and the union of these regions generates the entire image.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to object recognition:

An area of computer vision is active vision, sometimes also called active computer vision. An active vision system is one that can manipulate the viewpoint of the camera(s) in order to investigate the environment and get better information from it.

Activity recognition aims to recognize the actions and goals of one or more agents from a series of observations on the agents' actions and the environmental conditions. Since the 1980s, this research field has captured the attention of several computer science communities due to its strength in providing personalized support for many different applications and its connection to many different fields of study such as medicine, human-computer interaction, or sociology.

Visual odometry

In robotics and computer vision, visual odometry is the process of determining the position and orientation of a robot by analyzing the associated camera images. It has been used in a wide variety of robotic applications, such as on the Mars Exploration Rovers.

Ambarella Inc.

Ambarella, Inc. is a fabless semiconductor design company, focusing on low-power, high-definition (HD) and Ultra HD video compression, image processing, and computer vision processors. Ambarella's products are used in a wide variety of human and computer vision applications, including video security, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), electronic mirror, drive recorder, driver and in-cabin monitoring, autonomous driving, and robotics applications. Ambarella's system on chips (SoCs) are designed to deliver a combination of video compression, image processing, and computer vision performance with low-power operation to enable cameras to extract data from high-resolution video streams.

In computer vision, rigid motion segmentation is the process of separating regions, features, or trajectories from a video sequence into coherent subsets of space and time. These subsets correspond to independent rigidly moving objects in the scene. The goal of this segmentation is to differentiate and extract the meaningful rigid motion from the background and analyze it. Image segmentation techniques labels the pixels to be a part of pixels with certain characteristics at a particular time. Here, the pixels are segmented depending on its relative movement over a period of time i.e. the time of the video sequence.

Visual computing is a generic term for all computer science disciplines handling with images and 3D models, i.e. computer graphics, image processing, visualization, computer vision, virtual and augmented reality, video processing, but also includes aspects of pattern recognition, human computer interaction, machine learning and digital libraries. The core challenges are the acquisition, processing, analysis and rendering of visual information. Application areas include industrial quality control, medical image processing and visualization, surveying, robotics, multimedia systems, virtual heritage, special effects in movies and television, and computer games.

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Further reading