Can Computers See?

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Do you think computers can see? One could answer that a camera allows to take photographs (images) and videos, and therefore computers can actually see. But is it that simple?

We must clarify the question before going further. The traditional definition of vision often implies that only living beings can see, for example by using the word “eye”. In this case, the answer to our question is clearly no. However, we believe that this definition deserves to be extended. But how to extend it in a useful and logical way? In other words, what is common to all the known types of vision?

Let’s take the human vision as a reference. It allows us to percieve the visible light rays, namely those of wavelength between 380 and 750 nm. They first go through the eye, before arriving on the retina which contains 130 millions of photoreceptive cells that convert light into neural impulses. Those impulses are transmitted by the optic nerve, and then interpreted in the visual cortex, which is in the posterior area of the brain.

A very large number of other living beings can see, at varying degrees of sophistication. At the most elementary degree, a lot of microbes and photosynthetic bacteria sense light using a photosensitive protein in their membrane and this may influence their movements and their biological rhythms. Some worms, starfishes, leeches and jellyfishes, possess a slightly more sophisticated capacity, they have photosensitive clusters of cells on their body. In the case of humans, we perceive colors using 3 types of photoreceptors. A lot of reptiles and birds, and some fishes and amphibians, can perceive ultra-violet.

Vision is therefore the capacity to understand, recognize, identify, analyze, detect or describe the environment using the perceived light. In more technical terms, we would say that it’s the capacity to extract information about the environment with electromagnetic waves captured. In any case, vision implies a means to capture images, and a means to interpret them.

With the extended definition, we can answer the original question. The modern computers readily allow to capture images, and with several different devices. For the interpretation, computer vision allows to implement software that will perform a large number of different tasks. The answer is therefore yes, computers can see.

More and more people discover computer vision, and realize the possibilities it offers. Thanks to it, computer systems will be made more and more intelligent and useful. They will therefore better fulfill their original function, that is making our life easier and allowing us to enjoy it more.

How will you benefit from this state-of-the-art technology?

Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years (Translation in French)

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This is a translation in French of Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years by Peter Norvig (Director of Research at Google).

Translator’s Note: Through this translation, we want to express our total commitment to excellence and continuous improvement which we apply to innovation in computer vision.