THE FIVE SENSES, AND BEYOND
current effort, the DaimlerChrysler Corporation is working on ma- chine vision for its vehicles that would supplement and even override human judgment. Using video input, a fast computer in the vehicle keeps track of nearby objects in real time.“If a child suddenly appears between parked vehicles,” says the corporation,
the computer registers the danger within 80 milliseconds . . . and, if neces- sary, initiates the braking procedure. In this time the driver’s visual center would only just have received the visual information . . . without the brain having been able to initiate any reaction at all.
This application reminds us that when artificial vision is not be- ing used to examine other planets, it is operating in environments that include people. Whether to sense a child in traffic, or to enhance human–robot interactions in general,the ability to differentiate people from things is the next important level of artificial vision.
FACES IN THE CROWD
It’s hard to imagine a more commonplace activity than recognizing a friend, but there is nothing simple about the action. His or her face must be detected as a face among many objects in the visual field, then recognized as belonging to a particular person. After that, we might also perceive the mood it is expressing. Human visual cogni- tion is remarkably competent at all this, even with wide variations in lighting and in the angle at which we see the face, even if it is partly obscured or we have not seen it for a long time—so competent, in fact, that we sometimes see faces where none exist, as on the surface of the moon.
The realities of today’s world provide strong motives to find ways of artificially replicating these abilities. With terrorism as a serious threat, with identity theft and transactional types of fraud growing, governments, law-enforcement agencies, and commercial enterprises seek secure and rapid means to verify personal identity. Computer methods can provide this service, within the area called biometrics— the identification and recognition of people through physiological or behavioral traits, which also includes fingerprinting, retinal scans, and voice recognition.