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Thursday, May 15, 2003

Wired News: Giving Robots the Gift of Sight
By Leander Kahney
Story location:,1282,58846,00.html
02:00 AM May. 15, 2003 PT

An e-business consultant from the United Kingdom claims to have invented a breakthrough mechanized vision system with a wide range of potential applications, from robotics to handwriting recognition.

Patrick Andrews, managing director of Break-Step Productions, a Cambridge-based consultancy, said he has developed a shape-recognition system called Foveola that closely mimics the human visual system.

A Web-based demonstration of the software, which Andrews says is relatively crude compared to the real thing, already is attracting attention from robotics companies and software developers, although the product has not yet been released to interested parties. (The demo requires visitors to register at the site.)
In contrast to current shape-recognition systems, Foveola is capable of recognizing a broad range of objects, Andrews said. Most vision systems are designed for specific tasks, such as recognizing text or industrial components.

Andrews declined to give many details, citing pending patent applications, but said the software mimics the processing pathway in humans' upper visual cortex.

In general, Foveola extracts shapes from a visual scene and assigns them a "mathematical signature." Like a neural net, the system has to be trained to recognize a shape, and shouldn't be able to distinguish shapes it hasn't seen before. It can, however, make a best guess based on the numeric signature it assigns.