A software that reads images as humans do


Two groups of scientists, working independently, have created artificial intelligence software capable of recognising and describing the content of photographs and videos with far greater accuracy than ever before, sometimes even mimicking human levels of understanding.

Until now, so-called computer vision has largely been limited to recognising individual objects. The new software, described on Monday by researchers at Google and atStanford University, teaches itself to identify entire scenes: A group of young men playing Frisbee, for example, or a herd of elephants marching on a grassy plain. The software then writes a caption in English describing the picture. Compared with human observations, the researchers found, the computer-written descriptions are surprisingly accurate.

The advances may make it possible to better catalogue and search for the billions of images and hours of video available online, which are often poorly described and archived. At the moment, search engines like Google rely largely on written language accompanying an image or video to ascertain what it contains.

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