Helen Keller

The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision.”

— Helen Keller
building footprints and croplands

Computer vision teaches machines to process imagery in ways similar to what humans can do. This field has enjoyed tremendous advances over the past three decades, where the state of the art has shifted paradigms several times, from unsupervised morphological imaging, to hand-crafted supervised learning, and now deep learning, automated feature crafting, semantic object detection and generative adversarial models. Many tasks and business processes that were thought impossible to automate a decade ago are now possible. Advancements are occurring so quickly that new philosophical questions are raised about the true meaning of video, imagery, and authenticity.

You can discuss image processing projects with us through our contact page.

Automated Building and Cropland Detection

QED has trained deep neural networks to perform automated semantic segmentation of households and croplands from satellite imagery. This approach is particularly pragmatic for demographic surveillance of rural areas in the developing world, where maps of human settlements are very limited and the logistical costs of conducting annual in-person census surveys in remote regions are often unsustainable. This machine-generated information is of vital importance to the State for planning logistics and optimizing the placement of interventions. Below are some examples of fully-automated segmentation conducted in Southeast Asia.

original satellite imagery

automated segmentation of households

automated land cover mapping: croplands, forests, rivers, alluvial planes, urbanization

automated land cover mapping: croplands, forests, rivers, alluvial plains, urbanization

Agricultural Resources in Nepal. Agrodealer and road networks, soil nutrient maps, croplands, and building footprints.

superimposition of croplands, buildings, agrodealers, and roads in Nepal

DARPA Shredder Challenge

The 2011 DARPA Shredder Challenge sought out technologies for the rapid deshredding of shredded documents, inspired by military scenarios in which shredded documents are acquired by boots on the ground, imaged at high-resolution, and sent back to be rapidly deciphered. Dr. Wu assembled a team with former JPL colleagues, dubbed the Herded Rappers — an anagram of “Paper Shredder” — that received an Honorable Mention and ranked 13th out of over 9000 teams. While many teams in the top ten resorted to manual human assembly or Mechanical-Turk-style crowdsourcing solutions (UCSD), our team developed software to address this problem in an automated fashion. The sequence of images directly showcase different steps of our procedure when executed on the first puzzle.

shredded document

shreds automatically segmented, aligned, and properly oriented

tool for matching shreds to most likely neighboring candidates, sorted by goodness-of-fit metric

deshredded document

Cell Segmentation

Cell biologists from a bioinformatics lab presented us with the problem of designing an image processing algorithm for the automated segmentation and geometric measurement of cells from slide images — a task formerly relegated to interns and manual labor. These images are heavily corrupted by artifacts and often suffer from suboptimal illumination conditions. The screenshots below showcase our algorithms at work.

original image

automated cell segmentation

iterating through cells

decomposition of segmentation algorithm

Optical Character Recognition

QED has been building solutions to digitally transcribe data from paper-based, handwritten medical registry books found in small-to-medium sized hospitals throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. These books provide a basic accounting of hospital activities, from which one can deduce patient influx rates, ward workloads, and disease prevalence. Such statistics are critical for efficiently allocating resources across hospitals, monitoring emerging threats, and formulating high-level strategies. Below are some pictures of custom-made hardware and software solutions we developed to digitally capture the handwritten data from these books. Our OCR accuracy matches the current state-of-the-art performance in applying deep learning to recognition of real-world handwriting.

registry book

hardware mount for imaging

photo taken from mobile app

photo auto-warped to match original template, ready for character extraction