With a view to realizing a society where intelligent robots play an active role, Canon is driving development of Super Machine Vision technology based on technologies the company has cultivated through product development based on imaging, recognition, information-processing and other technologies.
The Challenge of Developing Super Machine Vision
As humans, whenever we acquire visual information in the form of brightness, color, contrast, texture, structure and the like, we can, based on experience, instantly analyze that information to determine whether the object we perceive is large or small, an animal or another person, a man or a woman, dangerous or benign, among other things. This type of visual information, however, is generally very voluminous, and requires highly powerful, high-speed data processing in order for it to be analyzed and assessed, and to respond in a short period of time.
Canon is currently hard at work in the pursuit of Super Machine Vision (SMV), a next-generation vision system that surpasses the abilities of the human vision system, by leveraging its autofocus (AF) technologies cultivated through the development of cameras and business machines while also taking advantage of the image-recognition and data-processing capabilities employed in face-detection and character-recognition technologies.
SMV development is proceeding in two fields—Industrial Machine Vision and Monitoring Machine Vision—with the aim of realizing intelligent robotic vision capable of not only operating on command, but also detecting, assessing and learning as people do, based on a recorded history (experience) in accordance with changes in the environment and circumstances.
The Realization of Intelligent Robots through Industrial Machine Vision
Using Industrial Machine Vision, Canon aims to develop vision systems for automatic production robots to be used during the assembly and inspection processes for various products.
Performing the same function as the human vision system, the illumination and capture unit employed in these systems incorporates some of Canon's most advanced imaging and optical technologies. Meanwhile, the processing unit, which serves as the brain of the system, is equipped with various recognition and image-processing technologies developed by the company. Additionally, to provide intelligent learning capabilities, the unit contains algorithms developed based on statistical machine learning, which makes possible estimation and learning through the analysis of statistical data.
Because many of the parts used in cameras and other products are achromatic—many being either black or white in appearance—or made of glossy or transparent material, identifying individual parts from within a large pile proved challenging. With Industrial Machine Vision SMV, however, development focuses on the realization of visual capabilities that enable the high-speed and high-precision supply and assembly of such parts.
Conceptual Overview of Identification Functionality
Canon aims to further enhance SMV for application in industrial machines so that it may also be put to use in robots with even greater intelligence.
Monitoring Machine Vision Eyes for Robots that Coexist with Humans
Monitoring Machine Vision, with a focus on safety and security applications, targets areas of ever-growing importance, providing quality-of-life support in such areas as health management and rehabilitation by detecting potential threats to the safety of children and the elderly. Specifically, by recognizing and learning human postures, actions and behaviors, further advances in monitoring vision systems are expected to lead to the next generation of network cameras incorporating human intelligence.
Canon intends to employ this system in nursing care and living assistance in order to provide support that enables people to go about their daily lives with a greater sense of security. Furthermore, the company will pursue development with the aim of realizing a robotic eye coexisting harmoniously with humans.
In anticipation of the day when intelligent robots will play a variety of active roles in society, Canon will push forward with the development of Super Machine Vision.