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Digital pen spells out 'intelligent' future
By Sun Shangwu (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-17 05:45

How would you like a magic pen that could turn handwritten notes into digital hardcopy?

Sounds good? Well the pen, about the size of a magic marker, is one of the products on show at the week-long 10th International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV) in Beijing, which starts today.

Developed by scientists from the Beijing-based Microsoft Research Asia, the new gadget is made possible thanks to computer vision technology.

A tiny digital camera installed in the pen, which also carries a normal ink refill, tracks handwriting using computer vision techniques to turn the data into a digital file.

Unlike techniques relying on writing on computer displays or wired-in palettes, the pen lets users combine handwritten text and diagrams with digital content from reports, magazines and Web pages.

Nearly 900 scientists around the world will gather in Beijing over the next five days for the conference.

They will discuss theories of computer vision and put their latest applications on display, said Harry Shum, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia.

In an interview with China Daily, Vice-Minister of Science and Technology Ma Songde described the ICCV as the most prestigious meeting in the field, adding that the conference will give a big boost to the development of computer vision technology in China.

A total of 1,200 papers have been submitted to the conference so far, but only 45 will be allowed oral presentations, with a further 200 being chosen as poster presentations, said Ma. Both Ma and Shum are co-chairs of the conference.

Issues to be discussed at the meeting include theories related to picture segmentations, correspondence, calibration, tracking and statistics, said Shum.

These are all vital in the task of making computers imitate human vision, said Shum, who holds a PhD in Robotics from the School of Computer Science from the Carnegie Mello University.

Computer vision has been developing over the past three decades and has been widely adopted in many fields.

Surveillance cameras have long been used to keep an eye out for trouble.

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, their use has been stepped up, as has the development and use of so-called intelligent cameras which automatically detect unusual or suspicious activity.

In big cities like New York and Shanghai, thousands of hours of video are collected every day; according to Shum, computer vision technology is urgently needed to process this data to pick out and store useful images.

Ma said that China has been involved in the research of computer vision for 10 years. According to the vice minister, labs with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Tsinghua University and Peking University have made breakthroughs in the area.

The application has also witnessed rapid development in China. For example, the "Hanwang" company has achieved success getting computers to recognize Chinese handwriting, in turn developing a series of products.

(China Daily 10/17/2005 page2)

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