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In a recent article in Information Age, I describe the technological and structural bottlenecks that computer vision must overcome if it is to play a greater role in the majority of business sectors—not just those traditionally associated with technology such as photography, video and illustration.
Mobius’s core mission is to help businesses overcome these barriers and bring the benefits of computer vision to as wide an audience as possible. With that in mind, here are three areas where I see computer vision evolving in the next 12 months.
A paradigm shift in robotic devices
Although autonomous devices have been with us for several decades on industrial assembly lines, computer vision extends the benefits of the technology much further along the supply chain.
Mining and the extraction of raw materials is a good place to start. Using computer vision to classify ore grades and generate terrain maps accelerates exploration and could even support automated mining given sufficient data.
In factories, computer vision, in the form of object recognition, will play a greater role in helping to sort and distribute parts more efficiently and reliably than the human brain—especially when it comes to the organisation of thousands of miniature components.
Modern cars, for example, have about 30,000 different parts including radars, imaging sensors and computing systems. This next generation of vehicles—autonomous and electric—will require more advanced assembly line technology where computer vision will play an even greater role.
We’re also seeing significant advances in quality control. As well as spotting the tiniest surface defect of a manufactured object, computer vision can count objects and flag a missing component to a human operator. This applies equally to the body work of a high-end motor vehicle as it does to the number of buttons on a shirt, or the charging cables packaged with an electronic device.
Making sense of the metaverse
While industrial robots have been with us for many years, the past few months have been dominated by the metaverse with several big tech companies jostling for a position in the headlines.
A lot of people have asked me about my view on the technology and I always reply that augmented reality, delivered via smart glasses, will be far more accessible to the majority of people, whether they are following directions on the street or manipulating virtual objects in an engineering workshop.
I’m also very optimistic that this will help solve some of the social issues that go with smartphones and tablets. Handheld smart devices keep us in ‘heads down’ mode whereas smart glasses enable us to maintain eye contact with friends and colleagues while managing our online lives.
It also helps to think about the metaverse as a series of layers, starting with a completely transparent display and then ‘mixed reality’ which blends digital information and objects with the real world. Finally, complete immersion where the participant is free to move around in a virtual space whether meeting with online colleagues, playing games or other simulations.
A victory for video
I believe that 2022 is the year that video catches up with photography when it comes to the application of computer vision. Software on smartphone cameras already helps end-users to choose their favourite photo or apply smart edits to landscapes or portraits. In fact, unless you shoot ‘raw’, it’s probable that every photograph you now take is enhanced by computer vision.
We’re going to see something similar with video. In the same way that a camera can enhance different images depending on the context (landscape, portrait, sports etc) computer vision will edit a clip depending on the subject.
This is especially useful in social media where clips last for a matter of seconds. Imagine being an influencer or marketer on TikTok and being able to extract and stitch together a ten second edit automatically from a two minute clip.
The software will make the edit automatically or the creator can choose a tone: tranquility for a landscape, energy for sports and so on. It will even, if required, offer a choice of edits so that the videographer or social media manager can make a final decision and upload their favourite version.
This is great news as well for media organisations. The software can also be used to enhance and amplify content from many thousands of hours of archived footage. Media organisations will be able to sift through their content using a choice of filters based on fashion, sports, geography and many more. Once selected, these clips can be licensed for third parties or used as promotional material that attract customers to the archive to search for similar content.