Monday, December 23, 2013

VMX: Teach your computer to see without leaving the browser, my Kickstarter project

I’ve spent the last 12 years of my life learning how machines think, and now is time to give a little something back.  I’m not just talking about using computers, nor writing ordinary computer programs.  I’m talking about Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Computer Vision.  Throughout these 12 years, I’ve witnessed how engineers and scientists pursue these problems, at three great universities: RPI, CMU, and MIT.  I’ve been to 11 research conferences, given many talks, wrote and co-wrote many papers, helped teach a few computer vision courses, helped run a few innovation workshops centered around computer vision, and released some open-source computer vision code.

But now, in 2014, most people still struggle with understanding what computer vision is all about and how to get computer vision tools up and running.  I’ve decided that a traditional career in Academia would allow me to motivate no more than a few classrooms of students per year.  A rough estimate of 100 students per year across a 30 year career is a mere 30,000 students.  What about everybody else?  One could argue that some of these students would become educators themselves and the wonderful art of computer vision would reach beyond 30,000.  But I can’t wait.  I don’t want to wait.  Computer vision is too awesome.  I’m too excited.  It's time for everybody to feel this excitement.

So I decided to do something crazy.  Something I wanted to do for a long time, but only recently realized that it would not be possible to do inside the confines of a University.  I recruited the craziest and most bad-ass developer I’ve ever encountered and decided to do the following: convert advanced computer vision technology into a product form that would be so easy to use, a kid without any programming knowledge could train his own object detectors.

I’ve been working non-stop with my colleague and cofounder at our new company,, to bring you the following Kickstarter campaign:

What if your computer was just a little bit smarter? What if it could understand what is going on in its surroundings merely by looking at the world through a camera? Such technology could be used to make games more engaging, our interactions with computers more seamless, and allow computers to automate many of our daily chores and responsibilities. We believe that new technology shouldn’t be about advanced knobs, long manuals, or require domain expertise. 

The VMX project was designed to bring cutting-edge computer vision technology to a very broad audience: hobbyists, researchers, artists, students, roboticists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Not only will we educate you about potential uses of computer vision with our very own open-source vision apps, but the VMX project will give you all the tools you need to bring your own creative computer vision projects to life.

VMX gives individuals all they need to effortlessly build their very own computer vision applications. Our technology is built on top of 10+ years of research experience acquired from CMU, MIT, and Google. By leaving the hard stuff to us, you will be able to focus on creative uses of computer vision without the headaches of mastering machine learning algorithms or managing expensive computations. You won’t need to be a C++ guru or know anything about statistical machine learning algorithms to start using laboratory-grade computer vision tools for your own creative uses.

In order to make the barrier-of-entry to computer vision as low as possible, we built VMX directly in the browser and made sure that it requires no extra hardware. All you need is a laptop with a webcam and a internet connection. Because browsers such as Chrome and Firefox can read video directly from a webcam, you most likely have all of the required software and hardware. The only thing missing is VMX.

We're truly excited about what is going happen next, but we need your help!  Please spread the word, and if you're even mildly excited about computer vision, consider supporting this project.

Thanks Everyone!
Tomasz, @quantombone, author of tombone's computer vision blog

P.S. I'm not telling you what VMX stands for...

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