The adoption of Computer Vision has been steadily picking up pace over the past decade, but there’s been a spike in adoption of various computer vision tools in recent times, thanks to its implementation in fields like IoT, manufacturing, healthcare, security, etc.
Computer vision tools have evolved over the years, so much so that computer vision is now also being offered as a service. Moreover, the advancements in hardware like GPUs, as well as machine learning tools and frameworks make computer vision much more powerful in the present day. Major cloud service providers like Google, Microsoft and AWS have all joined the race towards being the developers’ choice. But which tool should you choose? Today I’ll take you through a list of the top tools and will help you understand which one to pick up, based on your need.
Computer Vision Tools/Libraries
- OpenCV: Any post on computer vision is incomplete without the mention of OpenCV. OpenCV is a great performing computer vision tool and it works well with C++ as well as Python. OpenCV is prebuilt with all the necessary techniques and algorithms to perform several image and video processing tasks. It’s quite easy to use and this makes it clearly the most popular computer vision library on the planet! It is multi-platform, allowing you to build applications for Linux, Windows and Android.
At the same time, it does have some drawbacks. It gets a bit slow when working through massive data sets or very large images. Moreover, on its own, it doesn’t have GPU support and relies on CUDA for GPU processing.
- Matlab: Matlab is a great tool for creating image processing applications and is widely used in research. The reason being that Matlab allows quick prototyping. Another interesting aspect is that Matlab code is quite concise, as compared to C++, making it easier to read and debug. It tackles errors before execution by proposing some ways to make the code faster.
On the downside, Matlab is a paid tool. Also, it can get quite slow during execution time, if that’s something that concerns you much. Matlab is not your go to tool in an actual production environment, as it was basically built for prototyping and research.
- AForge.NET/Accord.NET: You’ll be excited to know that image processing is possible even if you’re a C# and .NET developer, thanks to AForge/Accord. It’s a great tool that has a lot of filters and is great for image manipulation and different transforms. The Image Processing Lab allows for filtering capabilities like edge detection and more. AForge is extremely simple to use as all you need to do is adjust parameters from a user interface. Moreover, its processing speeds are quite good.
However, AForge doesn’t possess the power and capabilities of other tools like OpenCV, like advanced motion picture analysis or even advanced processing on images.
- TensorFlow: TensorFlow has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years, owing to its power and ease of use. It lets you bring the power of Deep Learning to computer vision and has some great tools to perform image processing/classification – it’s API-like graph tensor. Moreover, you can make use of the Python API to perform face and expression detection. You can also perform classification using techniques like regression. Tensorflow also allows you to perform computer vision of tremendous magnitudes.
One of the main drawbacks of Tensorflow is that it’s extremely resource hungry and can devour a GPU’s capabilities in no time, quite uncalled for. Moreover, if you wanted to learn how to perform image processing with TensorFlow, you’d have to understand what Machine and Deep Learning is, write your own algorithms and then go forward from there.
- CUDA: CUDA is a platform for parallel computing, invented by NVIDIA. It enables great boosts in computing performance by leveraging the power of GPUs. The CUDA Toolkit includes the NVIDIA Performance Primitives library which is a collection of signal, image, and video processing functions. If you have large images to process, that are GPU intensive, you can choose to use CUDA. CUDA is easy to program and is quite efficient and fast.
On the downside, it is extremely high on power consumption and you will find yourself reformulating for memory distribution in parallel tasks.
- SimpleCV: SimpleCV is a framework for building computer vision applications. It gives you access to a multitude of computer vision tools on the likes of OpenCV, pygame, etc. If you don’t want to get into the depths of image processing and just want to get your work done, this is the tool to get your hands on. If you want to do some quick prototyping, SimpleCV will serve you best.
Although, if your intention is to use it in heavy production environments, you cannot expect it to perform on the level of OpenCV. Moreover, the community forum is not very active and you might find yourself running into walls, especially with the installation.
- GPUImage: GPUImage is a framework or rather, an iOS library that allows you to apply GPU-accelerated effects and filters to images, live motion video, and movies. It is built on OpenGL ES 2.0. Running custom filters on a GPU calls for a lot of code to set up and maintain. GPUImage cuts down on all of that boilerplate and gets the job done for you.
Computer Vision as a Service:
- Google Cloud and Mobile Vision APIs: Google Cloud Vision API enables developers to perform image processing by encapsulating powerful machine learning models in a simple REST API that can be called in an application. Also, its Optical Character Recognition (OCR) functionality enables you to detect text in your images.
The Mobile Vision API lets you detect objects in photos and video, using real-time on-device vision technology. It also lets you scan and recognise barcodes and text.
- Amazon Rekognition: Amazon Rekognition is a deep learning-based image and video analysis service that makes adding image and video analysis to your applications, a piece of cake. The service can identify objects, text, people, scenes and activities, and it can also detect inappropriate content, apart from providing highly accurate facial analysis and facial recognition for sentiment analysis.
- Microsoft Azure Computer Vision API: Microsoft’s API is quite similar to its peers and allows you to analyse images, read text in them, and analyse video in near-real time. You can also flag adult content, generate thumbnails of images and recognise handwriting.
- SciPy and NumPy: I thought I’d add these in as well, since I’ve seen quite a few developers use Python to build computer vision applications (without OpenCV, that is). SciPy and NumPy are quite powerful enough to perform image processing. scikit-image is a Python package that is dedicated towards image processing, which uses native NumPy and SciPy arrays as image objects.
Moreover, you get to use the cool IPython interactive computing environment and you can also choose to include OpenCV if you want to do some more hardcore image processing.
Well there you have it, these were the top tools for computer vision and image processing. Head on over and check out these resources, to get working with some of the top tools used in the industry.
I’ve also found leptonica and BoofCV useful.
Thanks, Michael. Yes, indeed. BoofCV is especially good to use when you’re working with Java.
I’m curious about Leptonica. What features of do you find useful and what problems does it solve better, compared to any of the other tools listed here?