Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Visual database of things

What's That?
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Now we have mobile phones with cameras and web access, it is time for a database of objects that can be searched by image. There are visual dictionaries available, but I'm thinking more of a continuously updated base of products and parts of products so that they can be identified quickly. This could be useful for explaining what the broken bit is to a sniffy car parts guy, or seeing if that thing you've just partially dug up is a 1985 Chevy muffler or a land mine. I don't doubt that there are SF writers who have thought of this, but I think we must be nearly at a point where it could be practical to do. As product liability cases get more and more stupid, there could be compulsion to do something like this from Government, after all we are already marking stuff for recycling and safe disposal. Note: [entremanure] 's dealybobber field guide should be part of this. One of the obvious problems is scaling, as it is difficult to tell from an image whether it is a large one far off, or a small one near to, but this could be overcome as the base would return a list for you to choose from with approximate sizes.
unclepete, Mar 09 2004

Its for flowers but the same concept. http://orchidspecies.com/index.htm
flowers flowers flowers? [toomer34, Aug 21 2005]

3D search engine http://shape.cs.princeton.edu/search.html
The first online one, but not the only one any more... [moomintroll, Aug 22 2005]

3D shape from photos http://www.eng.cam..../digital_pygmalion/
tools like this have existed for a while, but this is the state of the art (I think) [moomintroll, Aug 22 2005]


       i can see father ted esque no this is small that is far away arguments,
engineer1, Mar 10 2004

       There's certainly no shortage of academic and commercial work on image recognition and classification. Image recognition systems can be used for things like recognising faces, detecting blemished fruits, text recognition, and recognition of parts in a factory environment. The MPEG 7 standard is designed in part to allow images to be indexed by a visual description of their contents.   

       The only real problem is the amount of images (and processing time, since that will scale in part by database size): acquiring, processing and storing them. It's primarily an issue of photographing everything in the world, rather than the need for any special new technology.   

       Also, obviously, even trained humans can't recognise just anything from a low-resolution cameraphone image (sometimes it's hard to recognise your friends faces, let alone anything stranger). At the end of the day, it's going to be impossible to identify a lot of things no matter what's doing the recognition.
kropotkin, Mar 10 2004

       They're called "books".
Bowie23, Mar 10 2004

       I see, it's a visual database of *everything*. Ambitious to say the least.
wagster, Aug 22 2005

       Is this for 2D images of things or 3D representations of them? In any case, any automated system will need some context, but there's no reason you can't say, "It's a face; tell me who it is", or "It's a bit of my car; what is it?" alternatively, you take several photos and post them; the system reconstitutes this into some sort of 3D shape then looks for that. This is getting very close to being technically feasible, and should be infinitely better, since a database of images is going to get confused by slight changes in camera angle, lighting levels, etc.
moomintroll, Aug 22 2005

       [Ian Tindale] may be luckily wrong about one thing: "There's no real way of saying to the internet, 'What are those Ray-Bans I'm wearing in this picture?'"...   

       I'l bet that there's a place on the 'net where people talk about Ray-Bans -- a Ray-Ban online community where Ray-Ban geeks would happily argue incessantly among themselves about whether those were 1989 Aviator II's or 1988 Surfer Specials (or whatever).   

       There's an online community for pretty much everything these days, so there may very well be a place to get those precious sunglasses identitified.
land, Jan 05 2007

       What I had in mind was a more sophisticatred system where you could have uploaded your picture and had the database match the image - but using the old wetware method worked for you, and I'm pleased you made it. Ebay must have the most diverse image collection anywhere by now.
unclepete, Aug 11 2011

       Perhaps that would have been a job for the Mechanical Turk or some other kind of outsourcing service, had they been available in 2007. Cheap humans performing better than machines.
pocmloc, Aug 11 2011

       Seeing as how I'm one of those self-taught mechanics who walks into NAPA, tosses a greasy chunk of metal on the counter, and says "I have no idea what this thing is called, but I need a new one," I would definitely make frequent use of a VTD. [+]
Alterother, Aug 11 2011


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