In his recent Vision Systems Design webcast titled “Advanced 3-D Imaging for Machine Vision,” Professor Daniel Lau of the University of Kentucky noted that 3-D imaging is becoming so prevalent in the film and video gaming industries that it is driving developments in other areas. 3-D imaging systems are already finding their way into biometric applications such as face recognition, land and building surveys, and assembly line inspection systems.
Indeed, 3-D imaging can be deployed in numerous industrial and nonindustrial machine-vision applications. In this issue, engineers from Saec-Data and a researcher from AIMEN Technology Centre, both in Spain, describe a 3-D structured light system that inspects and classifies scallops, removing the subjectivity of manual classification methods.
Such applications are enabled by a growing base of machine-vision software programs, either custom or commercial. In his Product Focus this month, editor Andy Wilson describes the numerous off-the-shelf software products that allow system designers to incorporate 3-D imaging for inspection tasks and robot guidance. These tools include calibration software, development toolkits, software for combining cameras and lasers, and visualization software to analyze point cloud data.
Service robots are another beneficiary of 3-D vision systems, as I explain in a recent market report entitled “Vision for Service Robots,” co-authored with Adil Shafi, president of Advenovation. Agricultural applications are just one of the fastest growing areas reaping the benefits provided by 3-D service robot deployment. These were also the topic of several talks during the recent European Machine Vision Association business meeting in Amsterdam, held in early May this year.
Speaking at the conference, Rick van de Zedde at the Food and Biobased Research group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands described service robots with 3-D vision used to weed crops, harvest roses, sort tomatoes, and milk cows. In the future, the need for other types of service robots will become more pressing according to another speaker, Franz Josef Radermacher, a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Ulm. A renowned expert on globalization and sustainable development, he foresees the urgent need for service robots to support aging populations.
Radermacher noted that the adaptation of service robots could be surprisingly fast if low-cost machines were available. With the advent of consumer technologies such as Microsoft’s Kinect and the numerous applications now being developed, machines with reasonable 3-D capabilities at a reasonable price—whether coming from games or industrial inspection—will soon be at hand.
W. Conard Holton, Editor in Chief
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