Monday, November 7, 2011

Does lighting matter?

The key to machine vision success is lighting, or so the experts tell us. But what if the experts are wrong? What if lighting is irrelevant to the success or failure of our applications?

Heresy? Perhaps, but I recently had the opportunity to listen to an image processing guru who argues our whole machine vision paradigm is wrong. And I think he may have a point.

Let’s start with video analytics – the business of extracting information from the torrent of data that is a video stream. Today I’m going to introduce you to video analytics in retail. My next post will cover the same technology in automotive applications, and then I’ll attempt to challenge our assumptions about how to “do” machine vision.

Intrigued? Then keep reading.

Lighthaus is a leader in retail video analytics. Their products will track people in a store and provide managers, layout planners and so on with information about which areas get the highest traffic, how long they loiter, and so on. They claim, and I will admit to finding this a little hard to swallow, that their technology can even estimate the age and gender of visitors to a store. That’s something I struggle with, despite my advanced processing capabilities and years of accumulated knowledge, so I imagine there’s a pretty high margin of error.

If you spend some time on the Lighthaus website you’ll find a number of movies showing their systems in operation. It’s impressive stuff, and despite my skepticism regarding some of their claims, I think you’d have to agree that it works. In my next post we’ll take a look at the same technology in the automotive world.

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