The visible has been and still remains the principle human source of information about the world. When we can see we can orientate ourselves. Even perceptions coming from other senses are often translated into visual terms, when we say “I see” we really mean “I understand”, and the sensation of vertigo originates in the ear but is experienced as a visual spatial confusion.
Thanks to the visible we recognise space as the precondition for physical existence. The visible brings the world to us. But at the same time it reminds us ceaselessly that it is a world in which we risk to be lost. The visible with its space also takes the world away from us. Nothing is more two-faced.
The visible implies an eye, it is the stuff of the relation between seen and seer. Yet the seer, when human, is conscious of what the eye cannot and will never see because of time and distance. The visible both includes us because we can see and excludes us because we cannot be everywhere. The visible consists of the seen which, even when it is threatening, confirms our existence, and of the unseen which defies that existence. The desire to see something like the sun setting behind the horizon, the stars on a clear night or heat haze in the dessert, has a deep ontological basis.
To this human ambiguity of the visible one then has to add the visual experience of absence, whereby we no longer see what we saw. We face a disappearance. And a struggle ensues to prevent what has disappeared, what has become invisible, falling into the negation of the unseen, defying our existence. Thus, the visible produces faith in the reality of the invisible and provokes the development of an inner eye which retains and assembles and arranges, as if in an interior, as if what has been seen may be forever partly protected against an ambush of space, which is absence.
Both life itself and the visible owe their existence to light. Neither the optical explanation of visual perception nor the evolutionist theory of the slow, hazardous development of the eye in response to the stimulus of light dissolve the enigma that at a certain moment appearances were revealed as appearances.
Theories and observations of visual perception have been the main source of inspiration for computer vision (also called machine vision, or computational vision). Special hardware structures and software algorithms provide machines with the capability to interpret the images coming from a camera or a sensor. Artificial Visual Perception has long been used in the computer industry and is now entering the domains of automotive and robotics.
Areas of artificial intelligence deal with autonomous planning or deliberation for robotical systems to navigate through an environment. A detailed understanding of these environments is required to navigate through them. Information about the environment could be provided by a computer vision system, acting as a vision sensor and providing high-level information about the environment and the robot.
Artificial intelligence and computer vision share other topics such as pattern recognition and learning techniques. Consequently, computer vision is sometimes seen as a part of the artificial intelligence field or the computer science field in general.