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Synthetic Data for Computer Vision: Benefits & Examples in 2024

Written by
Cem Dilmegani
Cem Dilmegani
Cem Dilmegani

Cem is the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per Similarweb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work focuses on how enterprises can leverage new technologies in AI, automation, cybersecurity(including network security, application security), data collection including web data collection and process intelligence.

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Advancements in deep learning techniques have paved the way for successful computer vision and image recognition applications in fields such as automotive, healthcare, and security. Computers that can derive meaningful information from visual data enable numerous applications such as self-driving cars and highly accurate detection of diseases.

The challenge with deep neural networks and their applications in computer vision is that these algorithms require large, correctly labeled datasets for better accuracy. Collecting and annotating significant amounts of high-quality photos and videos to train a deep-learning model is time-consuming and expensive.

Synthetic (i.e., artificially generated) images and videos can solve both the collection and annotation problems of working with visual data.

How can synthetic data help computer vision?

Enables creating datasets faster and cheaper

Collecting real-world visual data with desired characteristics and diversity can be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. After collection, annotating data points with correct labels is crucial because mislabeled data would lead to inaccurate model outcomes. These processes can take months and consume valuable business resources.

Synthetic data is generated programmatically which means it does not require manual data collection efforts and it can contain nearly perfect annotations. The image below by Unity demonstrates the difference between computer vision projects with real data and synthetic data. Unity states that they created a better model while saving about 95% in both time and money.

Synthetic data can save about 95% in both time and money.
Source: Unity

Enables rare event prediction

Datasets collected from real-world are often imbalanced which means some events are rarer than others. However, this does not mean they are negligible. For example, the computer vision system of a self-driving car that learns from road events may lack enough examples of car accidents because collecting visual data for it is difficult. Rare diseases or counterfeit money are some other examples of rare events that can be encountered in computer vision applications.

Instead, training deep learning algorithms of self-driving cars with synthetic images or videos of car accidents under a diverse set of circumstances (different times of day, number of vehicles, types of vehicles, number of pedestrians, environment, etc.) can enable safer and more reliable autonomous vehicles.

Thus, synthetic data offers a way to generate datasets that represent the diversity of real-world events more accurately.

Prevents data privacy problems

Collecting and storing visual data is also challenging because of data privacy regulations such as GDPR. Non-compliance with such regulations can lead to serious fines and damage business reputation. Working with datasets that contain sensitive information has its risks because data breaches can occur even through model outcomes. For example, researchers managed to extract recognizable face images from the training set with only API access to the facial recognition system and person’s name.

Synthetic data eliminates the risks of privacy violations because a synthetic dataset would not contain information about real persons while preserving the important characteristics of a real dataset.

What are some case studies?

  • Caper is a startup making intelligent shopping carts that enable customers to shop without waiting in checkout line. Image recognition model deployed in their shopping carts requires 100 to 1000 images for each item and there can be thousands of different items in a store. Caper used synthetic images of store items that capture different angles and trained the deep learning algorithm with it. The company states that their shopping carts have 99% recognition accuracy.
  • NVIDIA created a robotics simulation application and synthetic data generation tool called Isaac Sim for developing, testing, and managing AI-based robots working in real world.
  • Training an object detector with synthetic images containing random objects and non-realistic scenes is showed to improve deep neural network model performance. The technique is called domain randomization and researchers conclude that the real world may appear to the model as just another variation. The object detector could locate physical objects in a cluttered environment with 1.5 cm accuracy.

If you want to learn more about synthetic data and its applications, check our other articles on the topic:

If you are looking for synthetic data generation software, check our data-driven, sortable/filterable list of vendors.

If you still have questions about synthetic data, do not hesitate to contact us:

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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

Cem is the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per Similarweb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work focuses on how enterprises can leverage new technologies in AI, automation, cybersecurity(including network security, application security), data collection including web data collection and process intelligence.

Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.

Cem's hands-on enterprise software experience contributes to the insights that he generates. He oversees AIMultiple benchmarks in dynamic application security testing (DAST), data loss prevention (DLP), email marketing and web data collection. Other AIMultiple industry analysts and tech team support Cem in designing, running and evaluating benchmarks.

Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised enterprises on their technology decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.

He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

Sources: Traffic Analytics, Ranking & Audience, Similarweb.
Why Microsoft, IBM, and Google Are Ramping up Efforts on AI Ethics, Business Insider.
Microsoft invests $1 billion in OpenAI to pursue artificial intelligence that’s smarter than we are, Washington Post.
Data management barriers to AI success, Deloitte.
Empowering AI Leadership: AI C-Suite Toolkit, World Economic Forum.
Science, Research and Innovation Performance of the EU, European Commission.
Public-sector digitization: The trillion-dollar challenge, McKinsey & Company.
Hypatos gets $11.8M for a deep learning approach to document processing, TechCrunch.
We got an exclusive look at the pitch deck AI startup Hypatos used to raise $11 million, Business Insider.

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