Ever since the robot dog K-9 appeared in Doctor Who in the 1970s, geeks of a certain age have fantasized about having a metallic sidekick that does most things a real dog would do but doesn’t need to poop and can beat them at chess.
Why is machine vision a hard problem? As humans, we look at a dog and we see the dog. That’s all there is to it. Surely making machines that do the same isn’t that hard, right?
It actually turns out to be one of the toughest problems around, because that ‘simple’ seeing we do is in fact managed by our brains more than our eyes – and the brain is, well, the most complex object in the universe.
A lot of what engineers do is hidden away. Few members of the public give much thought to sewer systems, road bridges, power grids and flood barriers, impressive feats though they are. As Councillor Hamann says to Neo in The Matrix Reloaded, “See that machine? It has something to do with recycling our water supply. I have absolutely no idea how it works. But I do understand the reason for it to work.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea opened with a high-tech display involving 1,218 drones flying in tight formation, making various shapes including the Olympic rings, a snowboarder, and other fabulous coloured shapes in the sky. It totally wowed the crowd at the event and viewers around the world, and was a tour de force of what this article is about: entertainment engineering.
Drones are filling our skies. If companies like Amazon manage to negotiate their way past aviation restrictions, drones will soon be delivering our shopping to our homes and workplaces. No longer just toys and aerial photography tools, drones are here to stay. They are used in search and rescue, disaster relief, bomb disposal, military and civilian reconnaissance, archaeology, infrastructure inspection, anti-poaching, conservation, construction and law enforcement.
A virtual reality simulation of a nuclear facility is one of the new training tools presented at the 61st IAEA General Conference in September. Training specialists will be using it to navigate through realistic scenarios, threats and risks. The 3D tool is focused on preventative and protective measures against insider threats, and there are plans to cover other areas of nuclear security in the future.