Tuesday, September 16, 2008

So machine vision work is interesting?

Absolutely. For the engineer, or anyone else, with an interest in physics, engineering, and solving problems, machine vision is a treasure trove of fascinating technologies.

What I find so interesting is the way in which it draws together many different strands of science and engineering. For the physicist there are all the optical interactions to explore. Not just the business of light passing through a lens, but the way in which light reflects from surfaces, the various means of producing light, and the utilization of various wavelengths – from UV to IR - to help simplify and solve imaging problems.

Moving deeper, there’s the semiconductor science. While it may not be essential to understand how photons are ‘detected’ by the silicon, it sure helps to grasp the basics of how a camera works. As I’ve said before, an appreciation of the operating mechanism improves your ability to use a tool to good effect.

The software engineer or computer science geek is attracted by the image processing and analysis task. To the computer images are little more than large arrays: it takes a great deal of ingenuity to extract useful information from such a vast cloud of numbers. On the other hand, many of the actual number-crunching algorithms were developed long ago, so today the challenge is in figuring out which tools to use.

The electrical engineer is drawn in to the challenge of making it work. It’s all very well for a PC to analyze an image and determine if a part is present or absent, but that knowledge is useless unless you act upon it. The electrical engineer delights in hooking up triggers, managing the I/O, and bringing the hardware and software together in one functioning system.

I think the bottom line is that engineers are by nature problem solvers, and it’s hard to find a field that offers as many, and as a wide a variety, of problems, as does machine vision. Yes, the hours can be long, and perhaps the rewards aren’t as great as in law or medicine, but frankly I can’t think of another career that lets me have as much fun solving problems and playing with cutting-edge ‘toys’!


Andy Wilson said...

Dear Sir:

I completely agree with you. But my Dad - if he were still alive - would be rather dissapointed you ommitted mechanical engineers! While machine vision provides an important part in any manufacturing process, it provides a relatively small contribution compared with the knowledge required to implement, for example, a canning line!

All the best,

Andy Wilson
Vision Systems Design magazine

Passion for Vision said...

I also agree - machine vision is SO interesting!

Personally, I like reading about the incredibly creative, non-industrial applications. Who ever thought that machine vision would be used to measure and sort live fish in a stream or use pattern recognition to solve jigsaw puzzles?

Heather S.