Shen Huang
Mar 7 · 5 min read

Back in the 90s most people have never thought about what it would be like to shop online. In the 80s many people probably never even heard of the word “internet”. Businesses are constantly adapting themselves to new technologies in order to strive in competitions. As a sub-branch of artificial intelligence, computer vision is now playing a big part in eCommerce.

In this article, I will explain what computer vision is, how is it revolutionizing eCommerce, and what you can do to leverage yourself as an engineer or an entrepreneur.

Buying things online is now a common part of life, Image from Pixabay

What is Computer Vision?

As a part of artificial intelligence, computer vision is the field that enables the computer to see things as well as we do. After the drastic increase in digitally archived data and computational power triggered by the internet boom, computer scientists and engineers are able to test out some complex algorithms like never before. One of them being the deep Convolutional Neural Network (CNN), which is demonstrated to have an outstanding performance during the ImageNet competition.

ImageNet is a competition where computer vision specialists and hobbies get together competing their best algorithms in classifying images. In other words, it is a game where the pros competing on how well they can make a computer to look at a picture and tell what is inside the picture. The result of these competitions greatly accelerated the development of computer vision, allowing computers nowadays to detect and classify objects more accurately and efficiently.

Object detection with Computer Vision Algorithms, Image from Lazy Programmer

How is Computer Vision Revolutionizing eCommerce?

Enabling the computers to see properly unlocks numerous applications in many different fields. From medical image processing with AI, to snapchat filters on your phone, our lives have been greatly improved by it. One of the fields that takes a lot from this technology is eCommerce, our online shopping is now easier than ever thanks to those computer scientists and software engineer researching on enabling the computers to see.

Search Items With Pictures & Labeling Items With AI

Able to compare images with a group of other images inside the database, eCommerce business nowadays allows their customers to find their favorite items by taking a picture of the item.

Search an Item on Taobao with Photos, Image from MIUI.com

In the back where business runs, being able to detect what is inside the images also enables businesses to label the items inside these images right away, rather than having labors to do them manually.

Warehouse Automation & Automated Shops

Back in the warehouse, teams of staffs and engineers are working really hard on ensuring the items are delivered to you on time. There used to be people manually moving the items around inside a warehouse every day, and it can be quite a tiring job. With computer vision and robots, the majority of these tasks are now automated. The robot arms are able to detect, classify and read the exact location of a particular item inside a box of groceries, and grab it precisely with an appropriate amount of force.

Amazon Robot Picking Challenge, Image taken from Youtube

Outside the warehouse, grocery shops are opened without cashiers, and restaurants are opened without waiters. How does that work? The shops actually authenticate you through your mobile devices once you walk in, then they will be able to track your activities inside the shop by identifying your faces inside their cameras.

Shops without cashier, Image from IFeng.com

More Coming in the Future!

With the development of computer vision and other relevant fields, there will be many more stuff in the future that will make our lives a lot better! Here is a video on all the cool delivery bots shown in CES 2019.

What can we do to be a part of it?

As an entrepreneur or an engineer, it is always good to stay tuned with the latest technology and never fall behind.

Many cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) have released their computer vision cloud APIs, allowing the developers to create applications with these technologies without having to be an expert in the field. It is also good for engineers to get familiar with the design architectures and the components that drives the system, such as bucket object storage and RESTful API calls.

If you wanted to go even deeper, you might want to go into the research side and understand how object segmentation and deep learning really works. There are tons of online resources you can learn from.

Facial Feature Detection with Amazon Rekognition API

I hope you are inspired by this article. Stay tuned and have fun engineering!

In the end…

I am an engineer, coder who loves to learn about new technology and share it with people who are also passionate about it. Some people think AI and automation are going to take away their job, but I think it will actually create more opportunities. This is another reason that motivated me into writing my implementation guides, so more people can learn coding without having to pay a lot of money to school and other education facilities. Let me know what you are interested, and I will see if I can write about it.

Below are my other articles relating to Computer Vision, more waiting to be published.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +432,678 people.

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Shen Huang

Written by

Working on my thesis and job hunt, will blog more afterwards, offer me a job if you are interested. https://shenhuang.github.io/

The Startup

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