NEWS@IMAGING

Keeping you one step ahead

A vision for the future

10 Mar 2015

Machine vision is an exciting area of engineering which is playing an ever-increasing role in people’s lives. More and more products in a host of industries are inspected using machine vision technology. It is essential for continued development in this important field that the country maintains a strong output of engineers.

STEMMER IMAGING, the UK’s largest independent supplier of vision technology and services to industrial and scientific OEMs, system integrators and reseller markets, has taken a positive step in this respect by promoting an early interest in vision at school level through the ‘Engineering Education Scheme’. For the last three years, STEMMER IMAGING has worked with Farnborough Sixth Form College to provide an opportunity for successive groups of students to participate in a 6-month vision project while still at school. The projects have been as diverse as developing a football video game, a control system for computers using gesture recognition, and a food packaging inspection project.

Engineering Education Scheme

The Engineering Education Scheme in England & Scotland is administered by EDT www.etrust.org.uk, the largest provider of science, technology, engineering and mathematics enrichment activities for UK youth. This scheme specifically links teams of Year 12 or S5/S6 students and their teachers with local companies to work on real, scientific, engineering and technological problems. Although these particular vision projects contained a good deal of technical content, there was also a strong business element, with students investigating what was already on the market and learning about the costs of developing a product and the impact they have on profitability. Dr. Jon Vickers, Technical Manager at STEMMER IMAGING UK and technical co-ordinator of the projects said: “Each team of students has come up with their own project ideas. These are discussed in detail before the project is finalised and each team member is then assigned specific responsibilities, with one student taking the role of project manager. At the end of the project, the students produce a detailed report (in excess of 50 pages) which is independently assessed alongside other projects from the region.”

Football tracking project

The first vision project, undertaken in 2012-13, was to develop a system for tracking a football’s trajectory during a penalty kick and investigate ways of implementing the technique into a smartphone and tablet app. This project was inspired by the English Premier League’s intention to adopt the use of ‘goal line technology’ in season 2013-14. The students had to consider the theoretical requirements of capturing 3D data describing the trajectory of the ball and then put that into practice to evaluate the cameras, lenses, software and lighting needed. They also had to take account of effects on the ball such as spin. They then looked at how the techniques could be translated into a game and came up with 4 possible ideas, before deciding on an app that they called ‘Kick It, Track It’ that would allow players to score points by trying to hit different targets in the goal.

Gesture recognition project

This project was undertaken in 2013-2014 with a view to developing a gesture recognition scheme, especially for environments where a touchscreen is not appropriate, for example operating theatres, laboratories, mechanic’s workshops and so on. The project focused on three gestures: pinch (for zoom), swipe (for scroll) and a two-handed ‘select’ gesture. Through the project the team tested different cameras to show that speed was more important than resolution and identified ambient effects (lighting, clothing, background) and ways to minimise them. For the software STEMMER IMAGING’s CVB’s Manto image recognition and classification tool was chosen early on and one member of the team showed himself as a good and resourceful programmer.

Automated food packaging inspection project

The current project involves the design and construction of a vision system to carry out automated packaging inspections on breakfast cereal boxes. When completed, the system will be on permanent display at the prestigious Manufacturing Technology Centre, in Anstey, Coventry. The project features a freestanding circular conveyor system with three different cameras at three inspection stations. These will carry out print inspection, optical character recognition for ‘best before’ dates and batch codes, and 3D inspection of the box to check size, confirm box closure and to indicate damage. At a recent two-day project workshop, the students were able to finalise the camera positions and optics needed, acquire some test images to allow commencement of the system software design and progress the lighting arrangements.

A measure of success

The projects have proved to be highly successful both in terms of the recognition the students have achieved within the scheme and the aptitude the students have shown to addressing real-life engineering challenges. Last year’s project was rewarded with a prestigious gold CREST award from the British Science Association. This year’s team has the added incentive of knowing that their project will be on permanent display at the MTC, a UK-government funded organisation that aims to bridge the gap between academia and industry. It is hoped that many of these students will go on to pursue a career in engineering.