Monday, February 13, 2012

Machine vision needs its own Steve Jobs

A common theme among the many eulogies for Steve Jobs was his gift for simplifying what already existed, making devices such as mp3 players and phones a delight to use.

Oh how we need some of that thinking in machine vision. I’ve just spent a couple of days learning to use some new software from one of the leading vendors, and boy was it painful!

The actual vision tools are great; it’s just that the whole interface is overly complicated and clunky. Even the trainer was having difficulty finding the functions he wanted. I have no doubt that once the learning curve is climbed I’ll find it all very powerful. But I don’t recall my iPod having a learning curve. That, in my humble opinion, was the genius of Jobs: he made stuff so elegantly simple that it became a joy to use.

The only machine vision software products that have come close to being as intuitive as iTunes are the old DVT Framework product (remember that?) and the Banner vision software. Yes, they both had severe limitations but they made it easy for a guy in a factory to quickly set up an application.

You may argue that I’m nit-picking, but I disagree. If I’m going to use a product five days a week, fifty weeks a year I can put up with a learning curve. But the engineer who’ll implement one or two systems a year needs it to be intuitive and simple.

Vision software companies: heed my call. If you want to sell more software, make it easier to use.

1 comment:

Zhenyu Ye said...

There is not yet a killer app that drives machine vision, although there are many specific tasks that machine vision can perform well. Maybe Apple is not a good example, because it is targeting the consumer market. Yet most of the disruptions of the industrial market come from the consumer market. It would not be surprising that, one day, the Ki-what-so-ever-nect like hardware/software platform may disrupt machine vision.