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Computer Vision vs. Machine Vision

POSTED 01/16/2014

Often thought to be one in the same, computer vision and machine vision are different terms for overlapping technologies.

Computer vision refers in broad terms to the capture and automation of image analysis with an emphasis on the image analysis function across a wide range of theoretical and practical applications.

Where Machine Vision Comes In

Machine vision traditionally 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. The system can be used to trigger a variety of set “actions” based on the findings.

For example, in a bottling facility in the food and beverage industry, the vision system can used to identify multiple things. It can verify that the empty bottle itself is free of damage and foreign objects. It can verify the correct fill level of the correct product and it can check to make sure the right label is used and that the label is placed correctly. It can verify that the lid or cap is in place and properly sealed. It can check that the appropriate date stamp or identifying code has been added to the bottle in the desired location. Depending on what the system software has been coded to do, the system can trigger a variety of actions based on a variety of findings. For example, it can send certain products down a specific packaging line, or re-route defective products or even stop a production line.

The components of a basic computer vision and machine vision system are the generally the same:

  • An imaging device, usually a camera that contains an image sensor and a lens.
  • An image capture board or frame grabber may be used (in some digital cameras that use a modern interface, a frame grabber is not required).
  • Lighting appropriate for the specific application.
  • A computer, but in some cases, as with “smart cameras” where the processing happens in the camera, a computer may not be required.
  • Image processing software.

The lines between computer vision and machine vision have been blurring over the years and today, the term machine vision is used in non-industrial environments such as high-end surveillance, biomedical or life science applications, and even in the effort to improve an internet search engine’s ability to provide image-based recognition in search.

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Vision in Life Sciences This content is part of the Vision in Life Sciences curated collection. To learn more about Vision in Life Sciences, click here.