The impact of UK computer vision research
The impact of research funded from the public purse is an important measure of how valuable that research is. In this context, 'impact' is principally the transfer of knowledge from research to industry.
UK vision research has an excellent record in this context, with several different types of interaction between the academe and industry: interaction of academe with established companies, academe providing knowledge, expertise and trained staff to companies, industry seconding academics, and companies being spun out to exploit academic research. UK vision researchers also have a good record of working with government agencies. Some examples of these types of interaction are given below.
Major UK vision companies
This is a subset of a longer list of UK vision companies.
- Oxford Metrics Group: the parent of companies such as Vicon, 2d3 and YottaDCL, Oxford Metrics sells vision-based technologies to a variety of industries. Several of those technologies are licensed from UK universities.
- Jenoptik (formerly Computer Recognition Systems): number plate recognition, traffic management
- VisionMetric: face recognition (EPSRC-funded research presented at BMVC2003) is now "used by 90% of British Police forces and also in thirty other countries worldwide."
- Image Metrics: facial animation
Companies such as these have stated that they rely on a regular supply of highly-trained graduates computer vision experience from UK institutions. Other vision-related industries that employ vision graduates are the post-production and games industries, including companies such as EA, Disney Black-Rock, Eurocom, Rare, Codemasters, Frontier, Natural Motion, The Foundry, MirriAd, Framestore, The Mill, Aardman, but there are many more.
The skills learnt by postdoctorate researchers and PhD students working in vision are valuable to companies working in other domains, for example: Dyson (robotics), Morgan-Stanley (real-time computing), Ocado (robotics), Snell and Wilcox (digital media creation, management and distribution), BAe Systems (defence and manufacturing), Leonardo (defence).
Recent spin-out companies
- Imsense: automated, high-quality dynamic range optimization of photographs (sold to Apple)
- PlinkArt: a mobile phone application designed to identify works of art (sold to Google)
- Kestra: circuit board inspection (sold to CyberOptics Corp)
- VLSI Vision: CMOS imaging sensors (sold to STMicroelectronics)
- Irisys: queue management in supermarkets using thermal imaging
- Vision Semantics: automated analysis of CCTV imagery
- Ipsotek: visual surveillance
- Ixico: medical imaging
- Seebyte: tracking and stabilisation of underwater autonomous vehicles
- Panther Vision: bespoke vision solutions
- Stemmer imaging: vision applications
- Warwick Warp: biometrics
- Dimensional imaging: 3D and 4D surface imaging
- Actual Analytics: behaviour analysis
- Mobile Acuity: mobile 'phone image interpretation
- Metail: online fitting room using single-view reconstruction
- Zappar: augmented reality for advertising, greeting cards and books
- Cubic Motion: facial animation
- FaceTec: facial animation
- 4Sight Imaging: number plate recognition, security, industrial inspection
- Optos: retinal imaging
- 3DMD: 3D and 4D camera systems
Vision research in labs from major international companies
- Microsoft (Kinect is based heavily on computer vision)
- Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
- Toshiba Research
- Canon Research Europe
- Sharp Laboratories of Europe
Support for UK industry and agencies
UK vision research supports companies in a range of other areas:
- Architecture, such as Buro Happold
- Defence, such as Waterfall Solutions, BAe Systems
- Pharmaceuticals, various inspection applications
Some specific examples are:
- Oxford Brookes is working with Vicon, Sony and Yotta
- Southampton is working with Nissan and Morpho (Sagem)
There is widespread support for CCTV analysis from HOSDB (CAST as of April 2011), in particular using the i-lids database.
Knowledge transfer activities
- Demonstration of a gait biometrics system on the BBC's Bang Goes The Theory
- EPSRC Network on Vision and Language
- Joint meetings with the Applied Vision Association
Some of the leading vision texts have been written by UK researchers. These include:
- Roy Davies (Royal Holloway): Machine Vision
- Mark Nixon (Southampton): Feature Extraction and Image Processing
- Andrew Zisserman (Oxford): Multiple View Geometry
UK researchers have also written important books in disciplines related to vision, such as:
- Chris Bishop (Microsoft): Machine Learning
Two major international online resources for learning vision are also based in UK academe:
- HIPR2, an interactive vision textbook
- CVonline, a compendium of vision techniques
The above all relate to impact that UK-based research has had in recent years. However, the capabilities of computer systems have an important role in determining what is possible and it is only very recently that they have become fast enough, and with enough storage, to make such innovations practical. Moreover, the miniaturisation of computing and (particularly) sensing components that we have seen in recent years is opening up a host of new application areas; and the increased sophistication of machine learning is making possible more 'intelligent' vision systems. These are likely to have an impact on everyone's lives in the next decade. Everywhere that humans see can potentially be supported by computer vision.