Automation in Your Face: Let Machines Do What Machines Do Best

By William Owens, Engineering Dept., Ophir-Spiricon, LLC

So how did this whole concept of an “Automation Interface” come about? Well, here is my short-short history on the topic. In the beginning, all programs were simple. Users had simple menus with a few equally simple commands. Most commands had shortcut-key combinations that were fun and easy to remember. The world was a wonderful place. Then somebody got the bright idea that adding “New Features” to an application was cool. Pretty soon the idea caught on and the whole world was playing “keep up with the Joneses.” Fast-forward a few decades and we seem to have thousands of applications with thousands of features. Unfortunately, this evolutionary process did not take place within the human mind over an equally short period of time.
The above conundrum has resulted in many users spending unproductive time searching within menus for features they may have recently used. This resulted in a lot of head scratching in place of getting ‘the job’ done. Somewhere along the way an independent thinker emerged and, after repeatedly executing the same sequence of actions a hundred or so times, this brilliant individual became fed up with the repetition and yelled “STOP! There must be a better way!” At that pinnacle moment, as his or her fingernails slowly plucked the last surviving follicle from a bald head, one may have heard the question posed, “Is there a way we could automate this task?” And thus the idea of an Automation Interface was born! Is that how it all came about? Well, not really, but having explained the birds and bees to my young son last night I thought I would attempt the same technique to simplify this article some.
Computers, unlike people, have no qualms about repeating the same task over and over. When people are given repetitious tasks they will exercise their innate ability to adapt even when repetition is their desired goal. This can cause a real headache for companies that have strict production requirements or follow specific Q.A. validation policies.
BeamGage®, Ophir-Spiricon’s newest laser profiling software was built from the ground up with automation in mind. The developers of BeamGage knew that it would need to operate in three basic modes to facilitate the customers’ goals of automating internal processes. In the simplest mode, BeamGage is a normal application that reacts to user input from the mouse or keyboard. Most R&D problem domains will use BeamGage in this mode. Many production facilities will also use this mode, but as they begin to refine their processes, BeamGage will also accommodate a mixed interaction mode. In mixed interaction mode, programs can be written to automate the most repetitious tasks, yet still leave the Graphical User Interface (GUI) open for manual input between automated sequences. This mode will lower the cost of automating internal processes by allowing companies to take a piece by piece approach to automation. The last operational mode of BeamGage is the No-UI mode, where no human action is desired. This mode is most appealing to OEM customers. Many OEM problem domains require custom dialogs and data displays. And, in many cases, it is desirable to hide the BeamGage UI altogether. In this domain BeamGage really shines because user interfaces are, by nature, resource expensive. BeamGage was designed to run without UI elements. This mode provides far more efficient memory/CPU usage, as well as, the highest levels of computational performance.
Let’s face it, there are many problem domains that require digital video analysis. Spending time to interface with and select a camera is expensive and a massive amount of work. Just getting a stream of video frames to analyze can be overwhelming. At the end of this long process, hopefully, one has a two dimensional array of values that can finally be used to do some real analysis. In most cases, this final step is what really pays the bills. This is precisely where the BeamGage automation interface gives users a big leg up! The automation interface provides the ability to select between several cameras, including those with unique responsivities (i.e. specific wavelengths). With BeamGage’s extensive automation interface documentation and step-by-step examples, users are able to start analyzing right away! Imagine all of this without needing to find a phone number for your local Hair Club for Men!
In short, why leave your critical processes to chance? Let the machines do what machines do best.
BeamGage® product information
Ophir Photonics Group