AI Image Recognition: Common Methods and Real-World Applications

What Is Image Recognition?

Image recognition is the process of identifying and detecting an object or feature in a digital image or video. This can be done using various techniques, such as machine learning algorithms, which can be trained to recognize specific objects or features in an image.

These algorithms process the image and extract features, such as edges, textures, and shapes, which are then used to identify the object or feature. Image recognition technology is used in a variety of applications, such as self-driving cars, security systems, and image search engines.

The AI Image Recognition Process 

The AI image recognition process generally involves the following steps:

  1. Creating a training dataset: A dataset of labeled images is required to train the image recognition model. The dataset includes images of the objects or features that the model is supposed to recognize, along with corresponding labels or annotations. The dataset should be representative of the real-world scenarios in which the model will be used.
  2. Training the neural network: A neural network is a type of machine learning model that is often used for image recognition. The neural network is trained using the labeled images in the dataset. The network learns to recognize patterns in the images and to associate those patterns with the corresponding labels. The training process typically involves adjusting the network’s parameters so that it can accurately classify new images.
  3. Testing the model: Once the model is trained, it is tested using a separate dataset of images that the model has not seen before. This allows the researchers to evaluate the model’s performance and to make any necessary adjustments. The model’s performance is usually measured using metrics such as accuracy, precision, and recall.

Image Recognition with Machine Learning and Deep Learning

Traditional Machine Learning Algorithms

Traditional ML algorithms were the standard for computer vision and image recognition projects before GPUs began to take over. 

Traditional image recognition methods include:

  • Support Vector Machine (SVM): A support vector machine is a type of supervised learning algorithm that can be used for image recognition. SVMs are based on the idea of finding a hyperplane that separates different classes of data in a high-dimensional feature space. In image recognition, the SVM algorithm is trained using a dataset of labeled images, where the features of the images are extracted and used as input to the algorithm. SVM is particularly useful when the dataset is limited.
  • “Bag of features” model: This model is based on the idea of representing an image as a collection (or “bag”) of its features. The features are typically extracted from the image using techniques such as scale-invariant feature transform (SIFT) or speeded up robust features (SURF). After this step, each image is a collection of vectors of the same dimension. Next, we convert the vectors into “codewords” (like words in a text document). Similar codewords collectively form a codebook (like a word dictionary). Each image can then be represented by a histogram of codewords.This representation is called a “bag of features,” and it can be used as input to a classifier, such as an SVM, to recognize the image.
  • Viola-Jones: The Viola-Jones algorithm is a specific type of object detection algorithm that is used for face detection. It is based on the idea of using a cascade of classifiers, where each classifier is trained to detect a specific feature of the face. 

Modern Deep Learning Algorithms

A more advanced form of machine learning is deep learning. Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) enable deep image recognition by using a process called convolution.

The key idea behind convolution is that the network can learn to identify a specific feature, such as an edge or texture, in an image by repeatedly applying a set of filters to the image. These filters are small matrices that are designed to detect specific patterns in the image, such as horizontal or vertical edges. By applying these filters to an image, a feature map is produced. The feature map is then passed to “pooling layers”, which summarize the presence of features in the feature map. The results are then flattened and passed to a fully connected layer.

Examples of  deep learning algorithms for image recognition include: 

  • YOLO (You Only Look Once): A fast, real-time object detection algorithm. YOLO divides the image into a grid and runs object detection on each grid cell, allowing it to predict multiple objects in an image.
  • RCNN (Regional Convolutional Neural Network): A two-stage object detection system, first proposing potential object regions and then performing classification and localization on the regions. 
  • SSD (Single Shot MultiBox Detector): A fast, single-stage object detection algorithm. SSD predicts object categories and locations in a single forward pass of the network, unlike two-stage RCNN. 

5 Real-World Applications of AI Image Recognition

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are useful for various image recognition tasks.

1. Facial Recognition

Facial recognition is the use of AI algorithms to identify a person from a digital image or video stream. AI allows facial recognition systems to map the features of a face image and compares them to a face database. The comparison is usually done by calculating a similarity score between the extracted features and the features of the known faces in the database. If the similarity score exceeds a certain threshold, the algorithm will identify the face as belonging to a specific person.

2. Optical Character Recognition

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the process of converting scanned images of text or handwriting into machine-readable text. AI-based OCR algorithms use machine learning to enable the recognition of characters and words in images.

The process of AI-based OCR generally involves pre-processing, segmentation, feature extraction, and character recognition. Once the characters are recognized, they are combined to form words and sentences.

3. Fraud Detection

AI-based image recognition can be used to detect fraud by analyzing images and video to identify suspicious or fraudulent activity. AI-based image recognition can be used to detect fraud in various fields such as finance, insurance, retail, and government. For example, it can be used to detect fraudulent credit card transactions by analyzing images of the card and the signature, or to detect fraudulent insurance claims by analyzing images of the damage.

4. Captioning

AI image recognition can be used to enable image captioning, which is the process of automatically generating a natural language description of an image. AI-based image captioning is used in a variety of applications, such as image search, visual storytelling, and assistive technologies for the visually impaired. It allows computers to understand and describe the content of images in a more human-like way.

The features extracted from the image are used to produce a compact representation of the image, called an encoding. This encoding captures the most important information about the image in a form that can be used to generate a natural language description. The encoding is then used as input to a language generation model, such as a recurrent neural network (RNN), which is trained to generate natural language descriptions of images. 

5. Content Moderation and Filtering

AI-based image recognition can be used to help automate content filtering and moderation by analyzing images and video to identify inappropriate or offensive content. This helps save a significant amount of time and resources that would be required to moderate content manually. 

AI-based image recognition can be used to automate content filtering and moderation in various fields such as social media, e-commerce, and online forums. It can help to identify inappropriate, offensive or harmful content, such as hate speech, violence, and sexually explicit images, in a more efficient and accurate way than manual moderation.