The best computers have eyes
Vision is two things. It’s fundamental, for many of us, to life as we know it, and it’s a field where – historically – it’s been very difficult for computers to out-perform humans.
This has to do with how the human brain processes visual input, versus how computers perceive it. A computer sees a grid of colours. However, humans DON’T see this. No one could tell you the RGB values of eye-neuron E2. What we see, instead, are lines, contrasts, and such; things that have already involved some processing. (This is where optical illusions come from.)
The human brain naturally sorts what we see into meaning. That’s why it’s difficult for humans to reproduce a grid of random colurs, but we could easily recreate a scene that makes sense, drawn in a style we know, such as anime. We don’t actually remember individual elements – as our human memories actually suck, frankly – but we remember objects and events that we perceived; i.e. the meaning we made from it.
Studies have even shown that this is part of our brains’ structure. They did a study where cats weren’t allowed to see vertical lines. They were raised in a box with their heads fixed, immobile, so they only saw horizontal stripes. Grown up, they had trouble perceiving things that were straight up and down, but they could see it if it was held horizontally. The cats didn’t have vertical perception neurons.1
Computers don’t have these neurons either. But, with advances in AI, they may very well soon get them! These days, vision in computers is becoming a reality. Already we have things like self-driving cars that use computer vision to navigate. What’s the next step?
Think how much better computers would be than humans at a great variety of tasks. If you ask a person to count the ships in a harbour, they’ll struggle, and probably have to count on their fingers. A computer won’t struggle with counting. Its only struggle will be figuring out what, exactly, is a “ship” in the scene.
But, with advances in computer vision, this is fast becoming a reality. And then the sky is the limit! (Literally; computer-powered aircraft and spaceships are already a reality!)