In many articles on the subject of robotics and automation, especially if the article is geared towards lab automation, vision systems are addressed as a subtopic. Many people in the scientific community have speculated that machine vision systems would not be common place in laboratories for a number of years. This forecast however, turned out to be off the mark with the growth rate of machine vision systems rivalling that of machine manipulators. The problems lay in that many people do not truly understand what the term ‘machine vision’ actually means.
Machine vision is mistakenly thought of as sensing, storing and then reconstructing some sort of image to create a copy of that image. The objective is a lot more specific than that, as machine vision systems usually have a specific assignment. They are used primarily for checking part orientation in terms of their position and where they are in relation to their environment. Machine vision is quite often described as the ability of a device to sense and internally reconstruct a graphic image that emulates the original as close as it possibly can.
This is rather simplistic way of viewing it as the process inside the laboratory can be rather intricate. In lab automation environments, machine vision devices have a specific role, such as picking up and placing vials in a device. Procedures within the lab can be defined as being efficient, while effectively completing their tasks with the minimal amount of deviation. A full graphical recreation of the devices surroundings should not be necessary, with only a partial reconstruction required to navigate its environment. The procedures outlined above take advantage of various elements of the image, before using algorithms to deduce the necessary information from the image.
This side of machine vision is often misunderstood and it can be a difficult concept to grasp. I have a profound interest in this field and this is reflected greatly in my work which has received much criticism, due to its cognitively pressing nature. This website is not dedicated to the vision process itself but on the robotics and automation, so I will not delve too deep into this area. With this in mind, I feel it is necessary to examine only what is required to implement such a system in an automated device. Sorry if this disappoints those who wanted to look at this subject matter more thoroughly, although I may do a more in-depth article at a later date.