Furniture Makers Get Clark Kent Eyes

Scientists at Virginia Polytechnic Institute are using computer vision to save trees. A system developed by Earl Kline and Richard Conners scans raw boards for defects so furniture makers can work around them--wasting less wood. Human inspectors do that now, but not as effectively.

A high-resolution color camera scans passing boards and sends an image to a computer, where color and grain are compared with preprogrammed grading data. A separate laser camera sees surface cracks down to 1 100 inch. Within a year, researchers hope to add an X-ray scanner to look inside the board for knots, holes, and decay. A computer also tells the saw where to cut. Conners says the machine will cost $75,000 to $150,000, depending on how many cameras are incorporated. The U.S. Forest Service has helped fund and develop the machine in the interest of forest management.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.