How is a 3-year-old better than a computer?  A pre-school child can look at a cartoon of a chicken and know that's a chicken but a computer cannot.  But things are getting better. In the International Journal of Applied Pattern Recognition, a
computer recognition system has been shown to be 99% accurate when identifying different fruits and vegetables, even the particular strain of apples or plums.

The automated imaging system developed by Shiv Ram Dubey and Anand Singh Jalal of GLA University in Mathura, India, is trained with a set of images of known fruit and vegetables so that the image analysis software can assign common features to a database.

The process involves photographing an image of the different fruits, "removing" the background and then analyzing the image left. So they have trained their program with 15 different fruits and vegetables including various types of apple, onions, potatoes, oranges, limes, kiwi fruit, and different melons.

Tests showed that 99 times out of 100 the software could correctly identify the product in question regardless of whether there were one or more items in the photograph and regardless of differences in lighting.

The team hopes to next extend the system to detect the signs of disease, bruising or other damage, which would allow products of unsalable quality to be removed before they reach the checkout aisle.