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Machine Vision and Applications

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- Overview

Machine vision is a technology and method used to provide imaging-based automated inspection and analysis for applications such as automated inspection, process control, and robotic guidance, typically used 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 thought of as distinct from computer vision, which is 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 a common term for these functions in the context of industrial automation, but is also used for these functions in vehicle guidance in other environments. 

The entire machine vision process includes planning the requirements and details of the project, and then creating the solution. At runtime, the process begins with imaging, and then automatically analyzes the images and extracts the required information.


- Machine Vision vs Computer Vision

The idea that machines can see and act for us is not a new concept. It's been the stuff of science fiction for decades, and it's now a reality.

Machine vision came first. This engineering-based system uses existing technology to mechanically "see" the steps of the production line. For example, it can help manufacturers detect defects in products before they are packaged, or help food distribution companies ensure their food products are properly labeled. 

With the development of computer vision, machine vision is also leaping into the future. If we think of machine vision as the main body of a system, then computer vision is the retina, optic nerve, brain and central nervous system. Machine vision systems use cameras to view images, and computer vision algorithms process and interpret the images, then instruct other components in the system to act on that data. 

Computer vision can be used alone without being part of a larger machine system. However, a machine vision system cannot work without a computer and a core of specific software. This goes well beyond image processing. In computer vision (CV) terminology, an image doesn't even have to be a photo or video. It could be "images" from thermal or infrared sensors, motion detectors, or other sources. 


- Machine Vision and Potential Applcations

Traditionally, machine vision refers to the use of computer vision in an industrial or practical application or process where it is necessary to execute a certain function or outcome based on the image analysis done by the vision system. The vision system uses software to identify pre-programmed features and is frequently used to trigger a variety of set "actions" based on the findings. One "simple" way to describe it, for the sake of simplicity, is the automatic extraction of information from digital video and image data.

Computer vision is increasingly capable of handling 3D and moving images, including unpredictable observations that earlier iterations of such techniques were unable to handle. Sophisticated operations detect various features in images, analyze them and provide rich information about those images. 

With advances in computer vision, the potential applications of machine vision have multiplied. What was once up to heavy industry to determine simple binary actions is now in the braking systems of self-driving cars, comparing our faces to passport photos at airport security gates, helping robots perform surgery, etc..



[More to come ...] 

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