Thanks to the new image recognition technology, now we have specialized software and applications that can decipher visual information. We often use the terms “Computer vision” and “Image recognition” interchangeably, however, there is a slight difference between these two terms. Instructing computers to understand and interpret visual information, and take actions based on these insights is known as computer vision. Computer vision is a broad field that uses deep learning to perform tasks such as image processing, image classification, object detection, object segmentation, image colorization, image reconstruction, and image synthesis. On the other hand, image recognition is a subfield of computer vision that interprets images to assist the decision-making process. Image recognition is the final stage of image processing which is one of the most important computer vision tasks.
Image recognition without Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems paradoxical. An efficacious AI image recognition software not only decodes images, but it also has a predictive ability. Software and applications that are trained for interpreting images are smart enough to identify places, people, handwriting, objects, and actions in the images or videos. The essence of artificial intelligence is to employ an abundance of data to make informed decisions. Image recognition is a vital element of artificial intelligence that is getting prevalent with every passing day. According to a report published by Zion Market Research, it is expected that the image recognition market will reach 39.87 billion US dollars by 2025. In this article, our primary focus will be on how artificial intelligence is used for image recognition.
Deep Learning in Image Recognition
Image recognition employs deep learning which is an advanced form of machine learning. Machine learning works by taking data as an input, applying various ML algorithms on the data to interpret it, and giving an output. Deep learning is different than machine learning because it employs a layered neural network. The three types of layers; input, hidden, and output are used in deep learning. The data is received by the input layer and passed on to the hidden layers for processing. As the name suggests the output layer generates the result. The layers are interconnected, and each layer depends on the other for the result. To train a neural network for deep learning, we need a huge dataset. We can say that deep learning imitates the human logical reasoning process and learns continuously from the data set. The neural network used for image recognition is known as Convolutional Neural Network (CNN).
Image Recognition Algorithms
Artificial Intelligence has transformed the image recognition features of applications. Some applications available on the market are intelligent and accurate to the extent that they can elucidate the entire scene of the picture. Researchers are hopeful that with the use of AI they will be able to design image recognition software that may have a better perception of images and videos than humans.
Image recognition comes under the banner of computer vision which involves visual search, semantic segmentation, and identification of objects from images. The bottom line of image recognition is to come up with an algorithm that takes an image as an input and interprets it while designating labels and classes to that image. Most of the image classification algorithms such as bag-of-words, support vector machines (SVM), face landmark estimation, and K-nearest neighbors (KNN), and logistic regression are used for image recognition also. Another algorithm Recurrent Neural Network (RNN) performs complicated image recognition tasks, for instance, writing descriptions of the image.
How Does Image Recognition Work?
Image recognition algorithms make image recognition possible. In this section, we will see how to build an AI image recognition algorithm. The process commences with accumulating and organizing the raw data. Computers interpret every image either as a raster or as a vector image; therefore, they are unable to spot the difference between different sets of images. Raster images are bitmaps in which individual pixels that collectively form an image are arranged in the form of a grid. On the other hand, vector images are a set of polygons that have explanations for different colors. Organizing data means to categorize each image and extract its physical features. In this step, a geometric encoding of the images is converted into the labels that physically describe the images. The software then analyzes these labels. Hence, properly gathering and organizing the data is critical for training the model because if the data quality is compromised at this stage, it will be incapable of recognizing patterns at the later stage.
The next step is to create a predictive model. The final step is utilizing the model to decipher the images. The algorithms for image recognition should be written with great care as a slight anomaly can make the whole model futile. Therefore, these algorithms are often written by people who have expertise in applied mathematics. The image recognition algorithms use deep learning datasets to identify patterns in the images. These datasets are composed of hundreds of thousands of labeled images. The algorithm goes through these datasets and learns how an image of a specific object looks like.
Databases for the Training of AI Image Recognition Software
We know that Artificial Intelligence employs massive data to train the algorithm for a designated goal. The same goes for image recognition software as it requires colossal data to precisely predict what is in the picture. Fortunately, in the present time, developers have access to colossal open databases like Pascal VOC and ImageNet, which serve as training aids for this software. Other popular datasets are CIFAR, COCO, and Open Images. These open databases have millions of labeled images that classify the objects present in the images such as food items, inventory, places, living beings, and much more. The software can learn the physical features of the pictures from these gigantic open datasets. For instance, an image recognition software can instantly decipher a chair from the pictures because it has already analyzed tens of thousands of pictures from the datasets that were tagged with the keyword “chair”.
How AI is used for Image Recognition?
You are already familiar with how image recognition works, but you may be wondering how AI plays a leading role in image recognition. Well, in this section, we will discuss the answer to this critical question in detail.
1. Facial Recognition
We as humans easily discern people based on their distinctive facial features. However, without being trained to do so, computers interpret every image in the same way. A facial recognition system utilizes AI to map the facial features of a person. It then compares the picture with the thousands and millions of images in the deep learning database to find the match. This technology is widely used today by the smartphone industry. Users of some smartphones have an option to unlock the device using an inbuilt facial recognition sensor. Some social networking sites also use this technology to recognize people in the group picture and automatically tag them. Besides this, AI image recognition technology is used in digital marketing because it facilitates the marketers to spot the influencers who can promote their brands better.
Though the technology offers many promising benefits, however, the users have expressed their reservations about the privacy of such systems as it collects the data without the user’s permission. Since the technology is still evolving, therefore one cannot guarantee that the facial recognition feature in the mobile devices or social media platforms works with 100% percent accuracy.
2. Object Recognition
We can employ two deep learning techniques to perform object recognition. One is to train a model from scratch and the other is to use an already trained deep learning model. Based on these models, we can build many useful object recognition applications. Building object recognition applications is an onerous challenge and requires a deep understanding of mathematical and machine learning frameworks. Some of the modern applications of object recognition include counting people from the picture of an event or products from the manufacturing department. It can also be used to spot dangerous items from photographs such as knives, guns, or related items.
3. Text Detection
AI trains the image recognition system to identify text from the images. Today, in this highly digitized era, we mostly use digital text because it can be shared and edited seamlessly. But it does not mean that we do not have information recorded on the papers. We have historic papers and books in physical form that need to be digitized. There is an entire field of research in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision known as Optical Character Recognition that deals with the creation of algorithms to extract the text from the images and convert them into machine-readable characters.
The use of AI for image recognition is revolutionizing every industry from retail and security to logistics and marketing. Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Pinterest are investing heavily to build AI-powered image recognition applications. Although the technology is still sprouting and has inherent privacy concerns, it is anticipated that with time developers will be able to address these issues to unlock the full potential of this technology.
Uses of AI Image Recognition
Image recognition AI is used across multiple industries. In this section, we will discuss the main uses of this technology.
1. Image Recognition AI used in visual search
Visual search is a novel technology, powered by AI, that allows the user to perform an online search by employing real-world images as a substitute for text. Google lens is one of the examples of image recognition applications. This technology is particularly used by retailers as they can perceive the context of these images and return personalized and accurate search results to the users based on their interest and behavior. Visual search is different than the image search as in visual search we use images to perform searches, while in image search, we type the text to perform the search. For example, in visual search, we will input an image of the cat, and the computer will process the image and come out with the description of the image. On the other hand, in image search, we will type the word “Cat” or “How cat looks like” and the computer will display images of the cat.
Besides Google, many other tech giants are also using image recognition AI technology. The list of these companies includes Snapchat, Pinterest, Microsoft for Bing search, and Amazon.
2. Image recognition AI can be used to organize the images
We know that in this era nearly everyone has access to a smartphone with a camera. People want to capture each moment of their lives with their cameras. Hence, there is a greater tendency to snap the volume of photos and high-quality videos within a short period. Taking pictures and recording videos in smartphones is straightforward, however, organizing the volume of content for effortless access afterward becomes challenging at times. Image recognition AI technology helps to solve this great puzzle by enabling the users to arrange the captured photos and videos into categories that lead to enhanced accessibility later. When the content is organized properly, the users not only get the added benefit of enhanced search and discovery of those pictures and videos, but they can also effortlessly share the content with others. Google launched a fresh service Google Photos in 2015. It allows users to store unlimited pictures (up to 16 megapixels) and videos (up to 1080p resolution). The service uses AI image recognition technology to analyze the images by detecting people, places, and objects in those pictures, and group together the content with analogous features.
3. Image recognition used for content moderation
User-generated content (USG) is the building block of many social media platforms and content sharing communities. These multi-billion-dollar industries thrive on the content created and shared by millions of users. This poses a great challenge of monitoring the content so that it adheres to the community guidelines. It is unfeasible to manually monitor each submission because of the volume of content that is shared every day. Image recognition powered with AI helps in automated content moderation, so that the content shared is safe, meets the community guidelines, and serves the main objective of the platform.
4. Image recognition technology helps visually impaired users
This is perhaps the most heartening benefit of this technology. Today we are relying on visual aids such as pictures and videos more than ever for information and entertainment. But it has a disadvantage for those people who have impaired vision. In the dawn of the internet and social media, users used text-based mechanisms to extract online information or interact with each other. Back then, visually impaired users employed screen readers to comprehend and analyze the information. Now, most of the online content has transformed into a visual-based format, thus making the user experience for people living with an impaired vision or blindness more difficult. Image recognition technology promises to solve the woes of the visually impaired community by providing alternative sensory information, such as sound or touch. One of the early pioneers of this technology is Facebook. It launched a new feature in 2016 known as Automatic Alternative Text for people who are living with blindness or visual impairment. This feature uses AI-powered image recognition technology to tell these people about the contents of the picture.
5. Image recognition technology can be used to create innovative applications
So far, we have discussed the common uses of AI image recognition technology. This technology is also helping us to build some mind-blowing applications that will fundamentally transform the way we live. From the conception of city guides and self-driving cars to virtual reality applications and immersive gaming, AI image recognition technology is facilitating the development of applications that we thought would never exist a few years ago.