Computer Vision & Related Fields

The fields most closely related to computer vision are image processing, image analysis and machine vision. There is a significant overlap in the range of techniques and applications. This implies that the basic techniques that are used and developed in these fields are more or less identical, something which can be interpreted as there is only one field with different names. On the other hand, it appears to be necessary for research groups, scientific journals, conferences and companies to present or market themselves as belonging specifically to one of these fields and, hence, various characterizations that distinguish each of the fields from the others have been presented.

The following characterizations appear relevant but should not be taken as universally accepted:

Image processing and image analysis tend to focus on 2D images, how to transform one image to another, e.g., by pixel wise operations such as contrast enhancement, local operations such as edge extraction or noise removal, or geometrical transformations such as rotating the image. This characterization implies that image processing/analysis neither require assumptions nor produce interpretations about the image content.

Computer vision tends to focus on the 3D scene projected onto one or several images, e.g., how to reconstruct structure or other information about the 3D scene from one or several images. Computer vision often relies on more or less complex assumptions about the scene depicted in an image.

Machine vision tends to focus on applications, mainly in manufacturing, e.g., vision based autonomous robots and systems for vision based inspection or measurement. This implies that image sensor technologies and control theory often are integrated with the processing of image data to control a robot and that real-time processing is emphasized by means of efficient implementations in hardware and software. It also implies that the external conditions such as lighting can be and are often more controlled in machine vision than they are in general computer vision, which can enable the use of different algorithms.

There is also a field called imaging which primarily focus on the process of producing images, but sometimes also deals with processing and analysis of images. For example, medical imaging contains lots of work on the analysis of image data in medical applications.

Finally, pattern recognition is a field, which uses various methods to extract information from signals in general, mainly based on statistical approaches. A significant part of this field is devoted to applying these methods to image data.