We are entering an era where devices can see rather than simply respond to touch. Recent smartphone launches from Apple (iPhone X), Huawei (Mate 10), and Google (Pixel 2 and Google Clips) are starting to shift the focus from what we see and do with our devices, to what the devices see and do for us. Major features such as security (e.g. Apple Face ID), social networking (Apple animojis), and content (Google Clips) are early examples of this confluence of computer vision, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning.
These devices also highlight a trend where both computer vision and AI are moving to the end device instead of relying on the cloud, engendering additional market opportunity for chip suppliers to bring to market more robust SoCs and GPUs and solutions like accelerators and VPUs. ABI Research forecasts that by 2022, over 650 million mobile devices will support more advanced vision applications on the device. Our phones will move from retouching our photos in the cloud to using vision to recognize when we are upset and perhaps starting some music to ease our troubled minds.
“The combination of AI, machine learning, and computer vision will help us use and interact with our devices in new and more profound ways – we will move from one-to-one connections between devices and the Web and remote services to an increasingly connected ecosystem of components that work together,” says Michael Inouye, Principal Analyst at ABI Research. “While some of the markets supporting embedded vision like VR and AR may appear to be new, they are in fact much older than the recent product launches – they are simply spreading because the technology has reached a critical level where science fiction and imagination are starting to become reality.”
Mobile devices will remain the largest market opportunity by volume of devices for computer vision. Even the expansion of markets like AR and VR will fall short of mobile devices; further, many of these AR/VR applications will leverage or rely on smartphones. Computer vision will in some ways be bounded by what the camera can see. Google Clips offers a new take on cameras which attempts to automatically look for and capture great moments. Smartphone cameras intelligence may be most limited by their field of view. They will be blind when they are in our pockets; a 180-degree front-facing camera may have immensely more useful intelligence compared to approximately 100 degrees of many devices today.