What Is a Computer Vision Laboratory?

A computer vision laboratory conducts research into visual processing. Such facilities use computers to work on a broad assortment of projects, from developing programs to interpret medical images to working on word recognition software that can identify and read text in images. Colleges and universities with computer science and engineering programs sometimes have a computer vision laboratory, and private companies with an interest in this field also maintain research facilities for their personnel. It is sometimes possible to tour a lab to learn about ongoing projects and meet the researchers.

This area of computer science research involves the development of computer programs that can process visual material including still images and videos. Using a camera, a computer can see an image and perform various activities to extract meaningful data or complete a task. In a computer vision laboratory, researchers have access to computers with high processing power to perform complex tasks, and work with leaders in the field who can act as mentors to assist people who may have questions and problems as they develop projects.

Individual personnel at a computer vision laboratory typically pursue their own projects, sometimes organizing small groups to work together on common goals. Funding for projects may come from grants as well as general funds maintained by the facility, depending on the nature of the research. Computers can be extremely useful for automated image processing like reading images to make environmental assessments and identify points of interest; for example, drug interdiction teams can process aerial footage through a computer vision program that can spot crops of drugs like marijuana or the tell-tale signs of meth production. The computer can generate a list of targets for the team to visit, cutting down on the time spent processing images.

Researchers work on the development of algorithms capable of completing tasks like tracking moving objects, recognizing specific things in an image, and comparing sets of images to identify differences. In activities like medical image processing, a computer can scan images, compare them to references, and determine if anything of concern is present in an image. While this may not replace a skilled radiologist, it can be a useful supplement to an evaluation by a human being.

Like other facilities where research is performed, a computer vision laboratory may include workers who file for patents to protect their research and produce papers discussing their work. Some of the material handled at the lab may be proprietary, and access could be limited to trusted or known personnel, in the case of a corporate facility. At colleges and universities, researchers may be more willing to discuss the nature of their work with visitors, in the spirit of academic cooperation.