The Greater Zurich Area is one of the world's leading centers for computer vision - thanks to leading universities, top talents, a dynamic start-up scene and global tech giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Huawei, Oracle and Disney.
Technology and its applications
Computer vision aims to teach machines how to see and understand the world, using computer-based methods that are oriented towards and exceed the capabilities of human vision. Also called machine vision, image comprehension, or visual computing such systems are primarily used today in industrial production processes (e.g., for quality assurance). Two major areas of application are discernible for the future:
Autonomous systems, i.e. enable machines to act independently and securely in a dynamic environment that is not completely controlled – for example, self-driving cars, mobile robots, or drones.
Spatial computing (sometimes also known as augmented or mixed reality), i.e. seamlessly integrate digital content with the physical world to augment human capabilities – for example, smart glasses (from Facebook, Google, Magic Leap or Microsoft). Based on advances in retinal projection technology, the aim is to provide people with personal support in real time, for example during surgical procedures, when furnishing the home or with virtual personal assistants for all possible life situations. At present, the whole area is in an early stage; in the future, these systems will be increasingly self-learning and even more adapted to ourselves than smartphones.
Universities and research institutes
ETH Zurich and other research institutes both academic and industry lead, anchor technological ecosystems. In addition to the basic disciplines such as computer science, electronics, and mechanical engineering, there are institutes, laboratories and research groups specializing in computer vision. In addition to teaching and fundamental scientific research, ETH Zurich also emphasizes the importance of applied research and collaboration with industry. The University of Zurich’s international reputation also plays a role. Applied research projects are conducted at a number of research centers in the Greater Zurich Area. Some examples include: Wyss Zurich (jointly operated by ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich), Zurich University of Applied Sciences ZHAW, Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK, HTW Chur, University of Applied Sciences of the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland SUPSI, University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland FHNW, and Lucerne University of Applied Sciences HSLU. There are also private research institutes such as the new Microsoft Mixed Reality & AI Lab and the Disney Research Lab, headed by ETH Zurich professors.
Dynamic start-up scene
Numerous start-up companies use computer vision in a wide variety of applications. Here are just a few of the many examples: Aerotain (broadcasting drone); ANYbotics (mobile robots); Auterion (drone control); CatchEye/Perceptiko (video telephony); Fashwell (image recognition for e-commerce); Fotokite (camera drone); Heptagon (sensor technology, acquired by AMS); Inspacion (virtual design for a surgical space); Kooaba (cloud-based image recognition, acquired by Qualcomm/Vuforia); Dacuda (real-time computer vision; acquired by Magic Leap); Nomoko (high-resolution cameras); Scandit (barcode scanner); SkyAware/zurichsense (navigation for robots and drones); Upicto (video recognition; acquired by Logitech); WayRay (navigation systems); Wingtra (drone data-mapping); and Zurich Eye (virtual reality, acquired by Facebook/Oculus).
Investors and incubators
Company founders now find a thriving climate in which to raise venture capital. An open network in which successful founders support and invest in the next generation of start-ups characterizes the Greater Zurich Area. Within this ecosystem, numerous incubators, accelerators, techno-parks and co-working spaces prosper.
Global tech giants
Almost all of the major players in the technology world conducted applied research in the Greater Zurich Area, including in the areas of machine vision and learning: Google, Apple, Facebook, Magic Leap, Microsoft, IBM, Huawei, Oracle, Disney or graphics processor and chip manufacturer Nvidia. The same applies to established Swiss companies such as ABB, Leica Geosystems or Roche. Their value for the economic area through the creation of qualified jobs, cooperation with universities and industrial partners and the attraction for new companies and talents is priceless.
As a cross-sectional technology, computer vision also benefits from related technologies and applications: Information technologies in general, electrical engineering, sensor technology, extended and mixed reality, artificial intelligence, etc. Be it universities, talents, suppliers, investors, or incubators: related ecosystems enrich and strengthen each other.