Max Larin, CEO, Ximea
How did you come to be part of the imaging/machine vision industry?
Through my research thesis. A long, long time ago, back in the early 90s, I was doing research work on solid-state physics at the Russian Academy of Science. The research on crystallography had a lot in common with today’s machine vision: automatic recognition of patterns in images and dedicated imaging hardware. Interestingly enough, it was at one of the first scientific events I participated in that I met my co-CEO at Ximea, Dr Vasant Desai – an entrepreneur in the microscopy image analysis business and founder of Soft Imaging System. Since then, we both have enjoyed developing imaging businesses in various fields individually and jointly.
How do you convince customers that they need machine vision?
Actually, we don’t. They already know it better than we do. Machine vision is a great technique for enhancing the quality of products and production quantities in many manufacturing environments. The inhibiting factor is usually cost: deployment times associated with highly proprietary, specialised, non-standard interfaces and components and of course the individual component prices. But, in our opinion, that just got a lot better! Our Intelligent Vision System addresses exactly these two key issues and offers the two industry standard components (a PC and a camera) in an IP67-compatible housing for a quantity price and size similar to an iPhone.
What role does Europe have in the development of machine vision?
Europe plays a big role. There are many companies in Europe who need machine vision; many system builders and integrators who export worldwide. The territorial extension paired with the euro landscape creates a very large market space. Add to that the diversity of the researchers contributing to machine vision with applications, imaging hardware and software, and it is evident that Europe has a big role in the machine vision theatre.
What do you see as the major growth sectors?
All of them. They are all equal. We believe growth is not limited to a given application field or market segment. We see a huge growth potential by introducing a new class of imaging system, the Currera, an intelligent vision platform. This business is just starting, but we believe that by introducing a real platform approach to the machine vision world, where all types of users can create and exchange solutions, on which applications and libraries from many vendors are supported, the solution space will increase by orders of magnitude and price performance ratios will offer totally new opportunities.
What are the biggest technological challenges facing the industry?
Machine intelligence. Contemporary, state-of-the-art image processing software delivers primitives for image decomposition and analysis – but there are still miles to go towards intelligence of neo-cortex like cognitive systems, which we believe is the destiny of imaging and machine vision technology.
What do you see as being the most significant commercial change in the industry during the years ahead?
Actually that is one of our secrets. But when trying to respond to that question and giving our best bet of our look into the crystal ball, it is necessary to take a step back and observe what’s happening around us. Based on these observations we see two issues: an increasing number of imaging systems and components whose characteristics become closer to commodity products, and the necessity to redefine sales and support avenues by utilising to a much higher degree the secure connectivity that communication technology supports today.