Reading the glyphs

A recent archeological discovery at San Bartolo in Guatemala contains murals and tombs that expand our understanding of the Mayan civilization, which lasted in some form for 2000 years before the Spanish conquest in the 17th century.

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A recent archeological discovery at San Bartolo in Guatemala contains murals and tombs that expand our understanding of the Mayan civilization, which lasted in some form for 2000 years before the Spanish conquest in the 17th century. Mayan writing takes the form of hieroglyphic-like signs, or glyphs, which have not all been deciphered and which come in complex forms representing humans, objects, and abstract designs. Some of the glyphs at San Bartolo seem to act as portals between human ceremonies and supernatural forces.

Modern image-processing software is also turning to glyphs to perform specific functions that are buried, except when called upon as part of a data-flow diagram. The computer code behind these icons may not resemble the spirits of Mayan cosmology, but as editor Andy Wilson explains in his article on graphical image-processing software, they enable designers to speed machine-vision-system development.

To stretch the analogy further, each one of our issues could be considered glyph-like in that we present the latest technologies and products and show the underlying work required to integrate them into machine-vision systems. For the trade-show attendee and exhibitor, however, reading Mayan glyphs may be easier than understanding the best model for growing the machine-vision industry.

Code breaking

Two recent trade shows illustrate the different models. The Vision Show East (Boston, MA, USA) in early May attracted approximately 100 exhibitors and 2500 attendees. It was of modest scale with familiar faces, and yet it was a show in which most exhibitors obtained quality business leads. Primarily a trade show for OEMs to exhibit lighting, frame grabbers, cameras, and image-processing software, it did not attract system integrators as exhibitors to demonstrate how these products could be used to build automated systems. Instead, the integrators were the target market of the show’s exhibitors.

At the other extreme, Automatica (Munich, Germany) in mid-May took place within five mammoth halls of the New Munich Trade Fair Centre. It was an impressive display of primarily German industrial automation know-how that drew more than 800 exhibitors and 28,000 attendees. Numerous exhibits by machine-vision-system integrators showed working systems, but the roughly 65 OEM vision companies exhibiting at the show were not the primary center of attention for attendees. The system integrators exhibiting at Automatica are rarely larger than those in North America and typically employ 10 to 20 people. However, these integrators-using a European business and cultural model-see their visibility as an important ingredient for success.

Perhaps there is no glyph-deciphering formula for a balanced machine-vision show that serves everyone from OEM supplier to industrial end user. If there were, it would have to address technologies, products, and applications and merge cultural differences between different countries. What a show that would be!

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W. Conard Holton
Editor in Chief
cholton@pennwell.com

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