CTO and co-founder, Mashgin. Powered by AI and computer vision, Mashgin is the world’s fastest self-checkout system.
Just what is computer vision? Even if you’ve heard the term previously, chances are you’d have a tough time defining it. Computer vision is, in short, a technology that allows a computer to see, observe and understand. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that enables computers to think, computer vision works by training a computer to look at objects, images, photos, video, and other visual inputs and then glean meaningful conclusions from the information.
The use cases for computer vision are infinite. It can see a plate of food from a corporate cafeteria and determine it’s a combo platter with chicken strips and fries and instantly determine the price or look at groceries, instantly identify all the items, and tally their total cost. Computer vision can look at photo scans inside the body to ferret out diseases. And of course, in one of its most famous use cases, computer vision is a key component in many self-driving cars.
Humans also draw conclusions from what they see, but computers can perform similar functions faster and often more accurately through the power of AI. Additionally, computers aren’t subject to problems humans sometimes have with recall and memory gaps.
Computer vision isn’t something that is widely talked about in most business circles—yet. The technology continues to emerge, and while most people likely don’t realize how often they use it, computer vision will have a significant impact on the business world in the next few years. Here are four places where it’s already changing how we do business.
1. Retail And Touchless Self-Checkout
No one likes waiting in line to pay for a snack at a convenience store or groceries at the supermarket. Even adding multiple barcode-based self-checkout options haven’t cleared supermarket bottlenecks. In fact, they can cause lines because customers are slower than a cashier at scanning barcodes, averaging 85 seconds per transaction at best. Standing in a long line at the store has become even less desirable ever since Covid-19; we’ve been told repeatedly to mask up, avoid crowds and keep a six-foot distance from others.
Computer vision can fix these problems. Touchless checkout systems use computer vision to visually identify items presented from any angle and instantly ring them up in a single transaction. No barcode scanning is necessary. Consumers simply place their items on the kiosk tray and pay instantly. Computer vision technology can even identify hot dogs or nachos bought from a concession stand at a stadium or plates of food in a corporate or hospital cafeteria.
There’s no bigger business than healthcare. There’s also no industry under more pressure with staffing shortages, rising care costs and the unrelenting pressure to get it right every time. In the medical context, computer vision uses AI to review and process images and assist with diagnoses. Computer vision can estimate body fat accurately using photos and measure blood loss during childbirth via images. One New York hospital even trains computers to review CAT scans and find neurological problems. Computer vision will ultimately help the healthcare business by ensuring accurate diagnosis in record time, preventing illness and resolving medical issues before they become costly for both the patient and healthcare system.
Computer vision will change how you bank in the same way the ATM card did decades ago. Many banks already use facial recognition to validate identities for specific transitions. Banks are also moving away from using debit cards for transactions. Instead, they use mobile biometrics to validate identities so customers can withdraw cash, transfer funds and more. Your daily economic life in the next decade will likely incorporate computer vision.
Computer vision could ultimately change the automobile industry as we know it. “Smart” cars powered by computer vision are in the works that use scanners, cameras and other data to navigate roads. While automated cars aren’t ready for the showroom, the industry is already big business. One self-driving car startup recently secured $600 million to expand and has partnered with both FedEx and Domino’s Pizza. Just imagine ordering a pizza and having it arrive via a self-driving car!
The Road Ahead
There are doubtless challenges to implementing computer vision technology, but the opportunities it represents as a technology could be life-changing. Companies can’t wait to implement computer vision; in a hyper-competitive world, it can deliver ROI in months rather than years. And while ROI is nice, there’s more at stake. Over time, computer vision will make shopping easier, help us stay healthy and even make it easier to do things like bank on the go. The changes afoot won’t just help businesses across industries; they will also help consumers live better lives and spend time on the things that matter most.