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Trends in Food Science & Technology 29 (2013) 5 e 20 Review transmitted to the
Trends in Food Science & Technology 29 (2013) 5 e 20 Review transmitted to the brain


in Food Science & Technology 29 (2013) 5 e 20 Review transmitted to the brain by

transmitted to the brain by the optical nerve, which makes human assign colours to this signal. Therefore, colour is not an intrinsic property of the object, since if the light source is changed, the colour of the object also changes ( Melendez-Martinez, Vicario, & Heredia, 2005 ). The per- ception of colour is a very complex phenomenon that de- pends on the composition of the object in its illumination environment, the characteristics of the perceiving eye and brain, and the angles of illumination and viewing. In foods, the appearance is a primary criterion in making purchasing decisions ( Kays, 1991 ). Appearance is utilized throughout the production e storage e marketing e utilization chain as the primary means of judging the quality of indi- vidual units of product ( Kays, 1999 ). The appearance of unities of products is evaluated by considering their size, shape, form, colour, freshness condition and finally the ab- sence of visual defects (Costa et al. , 2011 ). Especially, col- our is an important sensorial attribute to provide the basic quality information for human perception, and has close as- sociation with quality factors such as freshness, maturity, variety and desirability, and food safety, and therefore is an important grading factor for most food products ( McCaig, 2002 ). Colour is used as an indicator of quality in many applications ( Blasco, Aleixos, & Molto, 2003 ; Cubero, Aleixos, Molto, Gomez-Sanchis, & Blasco, 2011 ; Quevedo, Aguilera, & Pedreschi, 2010 ; Rocha & Morais, 2003 ). Upon the first visual assessment of product quality, colour is critical ( Kays, 1999 ). Consumer first judge a food from its colour and then from other attributes such as taste and aroma. The colour of food products affects the con- sumer acceptability of food products, and therefore should be “right”, when consumers are purchasing foods. The research on the objective assessment of food colours is an expanding field. Some researches show that colours have relationship with human responses ( Iqbal, Valous, Mendoza, Sun, & Allen, 2010 ; Pallottino et al. , 2010 ). With increased requirements for quality by consumers, the food industry has paid numerous efforts to measure and control the colour of their products. Therefore, it is crit- ical to develop effective colour inspection systems to mea- sure the colour information of food product rapidly and objectively during processing operations and storage periods. For a modern food plant, as its food throughput is increasing as well as the quality tolerance is tightening, the employment of automatic methods for colour measure- ment and control is quite necessary.

Colour measurements by computer vision for food quality control e A review

Di Wu and Da-Wen Sun *

Food Refrigeration and Computerised Food Technology (FRCFT), School of Biosystems Engineering, University College Dublin, National University of Ireland, Agriculture & Food Science Centre, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland (Tel.: D353 1 7167342; fax: D 353 1 7167493; e-mail:; URLs: refrig, )

Colour is the first quality attribute of food evaluated by con- sumers, and is therefore an important component of food qual- ity relevant to market acceptance. Rapid and objective measurement of food colour is required in quality control for the commercial grading of products. Computer vision is

a promising technique currently investigated for food colour

measurement, especially with the ability of providing a de- tailed characterization of colour uniformity at pixel-based

level. This paper reviews the fundamentals and applications

of computer vision for food colour measurement. Introduction

of colour space and traditional colour measurements is also given. At last, advantages and disadvantages of computer vi- sion for colour measurement are analyzed and its future trends are proposed.

Introduction Colour is a mental perceptual response to the visible spec- trum of light (distribution of light power versus wave- length) reflected or emitted from an object. Such response signal is interacted in the eye with the retina, and is then

* Corresponding author.

0924-2244/$ - see front matter 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


D. Wu, D.-W. Sun / Trends in Food Science & Technology 29 (2013) 5e20

Colour spaces Human eye distinguishes colours according to the vary- ing sensitivity of different cone cells in the retina to light of different wavelengths. There are three types of colour photoreceptor cells (cones) for human with sensitivity peaks in short (bluish, 420 e 440 nm), middle (greenish, 530 e 540 nm), and long (reddish, 560 e 580 nm) wave- lengths ( Hunt, 1995 ). A colour sensation no matter how complex can be described using three colour components by eyes. These components, which are called as tristimulus values, are yielded by the three types of cones based on the extent to which each is stimulated. Colour space is a math- ematical representation for associating tristimulus values with each colour. Generally there are three types of colour spaces, namely hardware-orientated space, human- orientated space, and instrumental space. Some colour spaces are formulated to help humans select colours and others are formulated to ease data processing in machines (Pascale, 2003 ). 3D demonstration of some colour space

images generated by the free software RGBCube ( http://¼ rgbcube ) except the HSV space ( Mathworks, 2012 ) is illustrated in Fig. 1 .

Hardware-orientated spaces Hardware-orientated spaces are proposed for the hard- ware processing, such as image acquisition, storage, and display. They can sense even a very small amount of colour variation and are therefore popular in evaluating colour changes of food products during processing, such as the ef- fects of changes of temperature and time during the storage on tomato colour ( Lana, Tijskens, & van Kooten, 2005 ). As the most popular hardware-orientated space, RGB (red, green, blue) space is defined by coordinates on three axes, i.e., red, green, and blue. It is the way in which cam- eras sense natural scenes and display phosphors work ( Russ, 1999 ). YIQ (luminance, in-phase, quadrature) and CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) are another two popular hardware-orientated spaces, which are mainly

two popular hardware-orientated spaces, which are mainly Fig. 1 . 3D demonstration of some colour space

Fig. 1. 3D demonstration of some colour space images. (a) RGB, (b) YIQ, (c) CMY, (d) HSV (Mathworks, 2012), (e) XYZ , (f) L* a* b*, (g) L* u* v*.

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used for television transmission and in printing and copying output, respectively, and hence are not used for colour mea- surement in the food industry.

Human-orientated spaces Human-orientated spaces are corresponding to the con- cepts of tint, shade, and tone, which are defined by an artist based on the intuitive colour characteristics. In general, human-orientated spaces are hue-saturation (HS) based spaces, such as HSI (hue, saturation, intensity), HSV (hue, saturation, value), HSL (hue, saturation, lightness), and HSB (hue, saturation, brightness). Hue is defined as the attribute of a visual sensation according to which an area appears to be similar to one of the perceived colours:

red, yellow, green, and blue, or to a combination of two of them. Saturation is defined as the colourfulness of an area judged in proportion to its brightness. On the other hand, brightness is defined as the attribute of a visual sensation according to which an area appears to emit and lightness is defined as the brightness of an area judged relative to the brightness of a similarly illuminated area that appears to be white or highly transmitting ( Fairchild, 2005 ). Differ- ent from RGB space which uses the cuboidal coordinate to define colour, the colour in HS based spaces is defined us- ing the cylindrical coordinates (Fig. 1 d). Because HS based spaces are developed based on the concept of visual percep- tion in human eyes, their colour measurements are user- friendly and have a better relationship to the visual signif- icance of food surfaces. This has been clarified by a study in which HSV space had a better performance than RGB space in the evaluation of acceptance of pizza toppings ( Du & Sun, 2005 ). However, human-orientated spaces, as with human vision, are not sensitive to a small variation in colour, and therefore are not suitable for evaluating changes of product colour during processing.

Instrumental spaces Instrumental spaces are used for colour instruments. Many of instrumental spaces are standardized by the Commission Internationale d’Eclairage (CIE) under a series of standard conditions (illuminants, observers, and method- ology spectra) (Rossel, Minasny, Roudier, & McBratney, 2006 ). Not like hardware-orientated spaces which have dif- ferent coordinates for the same colour for various output media, colour coordinates from an instrumental space are the same on all output media. CIE XYZ colour space is an early mathematically defined colour space created by CIE in 1931 based on the physiological perception of light. In XYZ space, a set of three colour-matching functions, col- lectively called the Standard Observer, are related to the red, green and blue cones in the eye ( The Science of Color , 1973 ). XYZ colour space was proposed to solve the problem that it is not possible to stimulate one type of cone only and no component is used to describe the per- ceived brightness (Hunt, 1998 ). In this space, Y means the lightness, while X and Z are two primary virtual

components which look like red and blue sensitive curve of cones. However, XYZ does not represent colour gradation in a uniform matter. For this reason, two colour spaces, CIE 1976 ( L * a * b *) or called CIELAB and CIE 1976 ( L * u * v *) or called CIELUV, which are the non-linear transformation of XYZ , were brought out and are adopted in many colour measuring instruments. In the colour measurement of food, L * a * b * colour space is the most used one due to the uniform distribution of colours, and because it is per- ceptually uniform, i.e., the Euclidean distance between two different colours corresponds approximately to the col- our difference perceived by the human eye (Leon, Mery, Pedreschi, & Leon, 2006 ).

Colour measurements Colour is an important object measurement for image understanding and object description, which can be used for quality evaluation and inspection of food products. The colour measurements can be conducted by visual (human) inspection, traditional instruments like colourime- ter, or computer vision.

Visual measurements Qualitative visual assessment is carried out for many operations in existing food colour inspection systems by trained inspectors in well-illuminated rooms and sometimes with the aid of colour atlases or dictionaries ( Melendez- Martinez et al., 2005 ). As a result of visual measurement,

a particular description of colour is obtained using a certain vocabulary ( Melendez-Martinez et al., 2005 ). Although human inspection is quite robust even in the presence of changes in illumination, colour perception is subjective, variable, laborious, and tedious, has poor colour memory of subjects, depends upon lighting and numerous other fac- tors, and is not suitable for routine large-scale colour mea- surement (Hutchings, 1999 ; Leon et al. , 2006 ; McCaig,

2002 ).

Traditional instrumental measurements Traditional instruments, such as colourimeters and spec- trophotometers, have been used extensively in the food in- dustry for colour measurement ( Balaban & Odabasi, 2006 ). Under specified illumination environment, these instru- ments provide a quantitative measurement by simulating the manner in which the average human eye sees the colour of an object ( McCaig, 2002 ). Colourimeters, such as Minolta chromameter; Hunter Lab colourimeter, and Dr. Lange colourimeters, are used to measure the colour of primary radiation sources that emit light and secondary radiation sources that reflect or transmit external light ( Leon et al. , 2006 ; Melendez- Martinez et al. , 2005 ). Therefore, tristimulus values are optically, not mathematically, obtained. Its measurement is rapid and simple. The calibration of colourimeters is achieved using standard tiles at the beginning of the opera- tion ( Oliveira & Balaban, 2006 ).


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Spectrophotometers with extended spectral range which includes the visible region (VNIR instruments) are also widely used for colour measurement throughout the food and agricultural industries ( McCaig, 2002 ). Spectropho- tometers output the spectral distribution of transmittance or reflectance of the sample. The X, Y , Z values are calcu- lated, depending on the illuminant, the measurement geom- etry and the observer (Hutchings, 1994 ). Spectroradiometers are used for the measurement of radiometric quantities as a function of wavelength (Melendez-Martinez et al. , 2005 ). Tristimulus values of both spectrophotometers and spectroradiometers are math- ematically obtained in accordance with the CIE definitions. Spectroradiometers have the same components as a spectro- photometer. The difference is that spectroradiometers use an external light source. Nowadays, spectroradiometers have also been widely used for the quality prediction of many food and agricultural products ( Wu et al., 2009; Wu, He, & Feng, 2008 ; Wu, He, Nie, Cao, & Bao, 2010 ). However, although simple colour measurements can be achieved, there are potential disadvantages in using tradi- tional instrumental measurements ( Balaban & Odabasi, 2006 ). One problem is that traditional instrumental mea- surements can only measure the surface of sample that is uniform and rather small. The sampling location and the number of readings for obtaining an accurate average col- our are important for traditional instrumental measurements (Oliveira & Balaban, 2006 ). When the surface of sample has nonhomogeneous colours, the measurement should be repeated to cover the whole surface, and even so, it is still hard to obtain the distribution map of colour. In addition, such measurement is quite unrepresentative, making the global analysis of the food’s surface a difficult task. Another problem is the size and shape of the sample. If the size of sample is too small to fill the sample window, e.g., a grain of rice or the shape of measured area is not round, e.g., shrimp, their colour measurements may be in- accurate if traditional instrumental measurement is made. Moreover, in order to obtain a detailed characterization of a food sample and thereby more precisely evaluate its qual- ity, it is required to acquire the colour value of each pixel within sample surface for further generating the distribution map of colour ( Leon et al., 2006 ). Such requirement is not possibly achieved by using traditional instrumental mea- surements. This in turn has increased the need for develop- ing automatic pixel-based colour measurement process in the food industry to replace traditional methods of human evaluation and instrumental measurements for rapid and non-invasive measurement of colour distribution within food products.

Computer vision measurements Computer vision is the science that develops theoretical and algorithmic basis to automatically extract and analyze useful information about an object or scene from an observed image, image set or image sequence

( Gunasekaran, 1996; Sun, 2000; Sun, & Brosnan 2003; Zheng, Sun, & Zheng, 2006a, b; Du, & Sun, 2006 ). As an inspection and evaluation technique through electroni- cally perceiving and evaluating an image, computer vision has the advantages of being rapid, consistent, objective, non-invasive, and economic. In computer vision, colour is elementary information stored in pixels in a digital image. Computer vision extracts quantitative colour information from digital images by using image processing and analy- sis, resulting in the achievement of rapid and non-contact colour measurement. In recent years, computer vision has been investigated for objectively measuring the colour and other quality attributes of foods (Brosnan & Sun, 2004 ; Cubero et al., 2011 ; Du & Sun, 2004 ; Jackman, Sun, & Allen, 2011 ). A significant difference between com- puter vision and conventional colourimetry is the amount of provided spatial information. High-spatial resolution en- ables computer vision to analyze each pixel of the entire surface, calculate the average and standard deviation of col- our, isolate and specify appearance, measure the nonuni- form shapes and colours, select a region of interests flexibly, inspect more than one object at the same time, generate the distribution map of colour, and provide a per- manent record by keeping the picture (Balaban & Odabasi, 2006 ; Leon et al. , 2006 ). A digital image is acquired by incident light in the vis- ible spectrum falling on a partially reflective surface with the scattered photons being gathered up in the camera lens, converted to electrical signals either by vacuum tube or by CCD (charge-coupled device), and saved in hard disk for further image display and image analysis. A digital monochrome image is a two-dimensional (2-D) light- intensity function of I ( x , y ). The intensity I , generally known as the grey level, at spatial coordinates ( x , y ) has proportional relationship with the radiant energy received by the sensor or detector in a small area around the point ( x , y ) (Guna sekaran, 1996 ). The interval of grey level from low to high is called a grey scale, which is numeri- cally represented by a value between 0 (pure black) and L (white) in common practice (Gunasekaran, 1996 ). Image acquisition and image analysis are two critical steps for the application of computer vision. Image acquisition requires scrupulous design of image capturing system and careful operation to obtain digital images with high quality. Image analysis includes numerous algorithms and methods avail- able for classification and measurement ( Krutz, Gibson, Cassens, & Zhang, 2000 ). The automatic colour measure- ment using computer vision has the advantages of superior speed, consistency, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness, and therefore cannot only optimize quality inspection but also help in reducing human inconsistency and subjectiveness.

Computer vision system The hardware configuration of a computer vision system generally consists of an illumination device, a solid-state

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in Food Science & Technology 29 (2013) 5 e 20 9 Fig. 2 . Schematic diagram

Fig. 2 . Schematic diagram of a typical computer vision system.

CCD array camera, a frame-grabber, a personal computer, and a high-resolution colour monitor (Fig. 2 ).

Illumination As an important prerequisite of image acquisition, illu- mination can greatly affect the quality of captured image. Different illuminants may yield different stimuli using the same camera. A well-designed illumination system can im- prove the accuracy, reduce the time and complexity of the subsequent image processing steps, lead to success of im- age analysis, and decrease the cost of an image processing system ( Du & Sun, 2004 ; Gunasekaran, 1996 ). Fluorescent and incandescent bulbs are two widely used illuminants, even though there are also some other useful light sources, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and electrolumines- cent sources. Because fluorescent light provides a more uni- form dispersion of light from the emitting surface and has more efficient inherence to produce more intense illumina- tion at specific wavelengths, it is widely used for many computer vision practitioners ( Abdullah, 2008 ). Besides the type of illuminant, the position of an illuminant is also important. There are two commonly used geometries for the illuminators, namely the ring illuminator and the diffuse illuminator ( Fig. 3 ). The ring illuminator has a sim- ple geometry and is widely used for general purpose, espe- cially for the samples with flat surfaces. On the other hand, the diffuse illuminator is well suited for the imaging appli- cation of food products with sphere shape, because it pro- vides virtually 180 of diffuse illumination.

Camera The camera is used to convert photons to electrical signals. CCD and CMOS (complementary metal e oxide e semiconductor) are two major types of camera, which are both solid-state imaging devices. Due to using a lens for imaging, pixel of central part of an image are much more sensitive than peripheral part in CCD and CMOS. CCD camera consists of hundreds of thousands

CCD and CMOS. CCD camera consists of hundreds of thousands Fig. 3 . Two possible lighting

Fig. 3. Two possible lighting geometries: (a) the ring illuminator; (b) the diffuse illuminator.

of photodiodes (known as pixels) that are made of light sen-

sitive materials and used to read out light energy falling on

it as an electronic charges. The charges are proportional to

the light intensity and stored in the capacitor. The CCD op- erates in two modes, passive and active. The first mode transfers the charges to a bus line when received the select

signal. In the latter one, charges are transferred to a bus line after being amplified to compensate the limited fill factor of the photodiode. After shifting out of the detector, the elec- trical charges are digitalized to generate the images. Depending on various applications, CCD cameras have dif- ferent architectures. The interline and frame-transfer are two popularly used architectures associated with modern digital cameras. Both interline and frame-transfer architec- tures are competent for acquiring motion images. The inter- line CCD uses an additional horizontal shift register to collect and pass on the charge read out from a stack of ver- tical linear scanners, which comprises photodiodes and

a corresponding vertical shift register. The downside to

the interline CCD is that the opaque strips on the imaging area decreases the effective quantum efficiency. The frame-transfer design is consisted of integration and storage frames. The integration frame acquires an image and trans- fers the charge to the storage frame, so that the image can be read out slowly from the storage region while the next light signal can be integrated in the integration frame for


D. Wu, D.-W. Sun / Trends in Food Science & Technology 29 (2013) 5e20

capturing a new image. The disadvantage of this architec- ture is its higher cost due to the requirement of doubled cell area and more complex control electronics. Although CCD is the current dominant detector for im- age acquisition, it is anticipated that the CCD technology will be superseded by CMOS technology in the consumer electronics market in the near future. The CMOS image sensor includes both photodetector and read out amplifier in each pixel (called active pixel), which is the major differ- ence between CCD and CMOS ( Litwiller, 2005 ). There- fore, CMOS sensor is referred to as an ‘Active Pixel Sensor’ compared with the ‘Passive Pixel Sensor’ type con- tained in CCD arrays ( Kazlauciunas, 2001 ). After using photodiode to convert incident photon to electron, CMOS converts the integrated charge to a voltage signal inside each active pixel immediately by using a set of optically in- sensitive transistors adjacent to the photodiode. The voltage signals are then read out over the wires. CMOS camera can transfer signal very fast because it has the wires inside, compared to the vertical and horizontal registers used by the CCD to shift the charges. Therefore, CMOS is espe- cially suitable for the requirement of high speed imaging for online industrial inspection. Moreover, the CMOS can access to each particular pixel by an Xe Y address owing to the addressability of the wires arranged in rows and col- umns. So that the CMOS can extract a region of interest from the image. Besides the characteristics of high speed and random addressing, the CMOS has other advantages like low cost, low power consumption, single power supply, and small size for system integration, which makes them prevail in the consumer electronics market (e.g., low-end camcorders and cell phones) ( Qin, 2010 ). In addition, in CCD technology, signals from one pixel can be affected by another in the same row which is termed ‘blooming’ and a poor pixel within a particular row can interfere with signals from other rows ( Kazlauciunas, 2001 ). However, CMOS is immune to the blooming, because each pixel in CMOS array is independent of other pixels nearby. The main limit of current CMOS sensor is that they have higher noise and higher dark current than the CCDs, giving rise to the low dynamic range and the sensi- tivity (Qin, 2010 ). Bayer sensor and three-CCD devices (3CCD) are two main types of colour image sensors that are differed by the way of colour separation. Bayer sensor over the CCD is commonly used for capturing digital colour images. It uses a colour filter array that comprises many squares. Each squire has four pixels with one red filter, one blue fil- ter, and two green filters, because human eye is more sen- sitive to the green of the visible spectrum and less sensitive to the red and blue. The missing colour can be interpolated using a demosaicing algorithm. The shortcoming of Bayer sensor is the colour resolution is lower than the luminance resolution, although luminance information is measured at every pixel. Better colour separation can be achieved by 3CCD that has three discrete image sensors and a dichroic

beam splitter prism that splits the light into red, green and blue components. Each sensor in 3CCD responds to one of the three colour. 3CCD has higher quantum efficiency/light sensitivity resulting in enhanced resolution and lower noise, because 3CCD captures most of the light entering the aper- ture, while only one-third of the light is detected by a Bayer mask.

Frame-grabber Besides illumination and camera, frame grabber is an- other hardware that should be considered for image acqui- sition. When only analogue cameras were available, frame grabbers provided the functions of digitization, synchroni- zation, data formatting, local storage, and data transfer from the camera to the computer to generate a bitmap image. A typical frame-grabber card used for analogue cameras consists of signal-conditioning elements, an A/D converter, a look-up table, an image buffer and a PCI bus interface. Nowadays, digital cameras are generally used in higher-end applications. These cameras do not need frame grabber for digitization. Frame grabber is also not necessary to transfer data from camera to the host com- puter. Alternatively, cameras are available with Camera- Link, USB, Ethernet and IEEE 1394 (“FireWire”) interfaces that simplify connection to a PC. Nevertheless, frame grabbers are still alive well, but they are different than what they used to be. Their role today has become much broader rather than just image capture and data trans- fer. Modern frame grabbers now include many of the spe- cial features, such as acquisition control (trigger inputs and strobe outputs), I/O control, tagging incoming images with unique time stamps, formatting data from multitap cameras into seamless image data, image correction and processing such as Bayer inversion filters, image authenti- cation and filtering, and communications related to perfor- mance monitoring.

Colour space transformations There are three aspects that determine colour, namely the type of emission source that irradiates an object, the physical properties of the object itself (which reflects the radiation consequently detected by the sensor), and the in-between medium (e.g., air or water) (Menesatti et al. , 2012 ). In general, a computer vision system captures the colour of each pixel within the image of the object us- ing three colour sensors (or one sensor with three alternat- ing filters) per pixel ( Forsyth & Ponce, 2003 ; Segnini, Dejmek, & Oste, 1999a ). RGB model is the most often used colour model, in which each sensor captures the inten- sity of the light in the red (R ), green ( G ) or blue ( B) spec- trum, respectively (Leon et al., 2006 ). However, the RGB model is device-dependent and not identical to the intensi- ties of the CIE system ( Mendoza & Aguilera, 2004 ). Another problem of RGB model is that it is not a perceptu- ally uniform space. The differences between colours (i.e., Euclidean distances) in RGB space do not correspond to

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colour differences as perceived by humans ( Paschos, 2001 ). Standard RGB (sRGB ; red, green, blue) and L * a * b * are

commonly applied in quantifying standard colour of food ( Menesatti et al. , 2012 ). s RGB is a device independent col- our model whose tristimulus values (s R, sG , s B) reproduce the same colour on different devices, and represent linear combinations of the CIE XYZ. Therefore, It is used to define the mapping between RGB (no-linear signals) from a com- puter vision system and a device-independent system such as CIE XYZ (Mendoza, Dejmek, & Aguilera, 2006 ). s RGB is calculated based on D65 illumination conditions, RGB values measured by computer vision, and a power function with a gamma value of 2.4. The camera sensors (e.g., CCD or CMOS) generate outputs signals and the rendering is device-dependent, since the display device specifications have different ranges of colour. In order to overcome this problem, s RGB values are often transformed to other colour spaces such L * a * b * ( Menesatti et al. , 2012 ). Moreover, even the result of such transformation is device-dependent ( Ford & Roberts, 1998 ). In many researches, a linear trans- form that defines a mapping between RGB signals from

a computer vision camera and a device independent system

such as L * a * b * and L * u * v * was determined to ensure the correct colour reproduction ( Mendoza & Aguilera, 2004 ; Paschos, 2001 ; Segnini et al., 1999a ). However, such trans- form that converts RGB into L * a * b * units does not consider calibration process, but only uses an absolute model with known parameters. Because the RGB colour measurement depends on external factors (sensitivity of the sensors of the camera, illumination, etc.), most cameras (even of the same type) do not exhibit consistent responses ( Ilie & Welch, 2005 ). The parameters in the absolute model vary from one case to another. Therefore, the conversion from RGB to L * a * b * cannot be done directly using a standard formula (Leon et al. , 2006 ). For this reason, Leon et al. (2006) present a methodology to transform device depen- dent RGB colour units into device-independent L* a * b * col- our units. Five models, namely direct, gamma, linear, quadratic and neural network, were used to carry out the transformation of RGB to L * a * b * to make the values deliv- ered by the model are as similar as possible to those deliv- ered by a colourimeter over homogenous surfaces. The best

results with small errors (close to 1%) were achieved with the quadratic and neural network model. However, although

the methodology presented is general, i.e., it can be used in every computer vision system, it should be noticed that the results obtained after the calibration for one system (e.g., system A) cannot be used for another system (e.g., system B). A new calibration procedure needs to be conducted for

a new computer vision system (Leon et al., 2006 ).

Colour calibration methods The quality of digital image is principally defined by its reproducibility and accuracy (Prasad & Roy, 2003 ). Without reproducibility and accuracy of images, any at- tempt to measure colour or geometric properties is of little

use (Van Poucke, Haeghen, Vissers, Meert, & Jorens, 2010 ). In general, a computer vision camera employs a sin- gle array of light-sensitive elements on a CCD chip, with a filter array that allows some elements to see red ( R), some green ( G) and some blue ( B). ‘White balance’ is con- ducted to measure relative intensities manually or automat- ically (Mendoza et al. , 2006 ). A digital colour image is then generated by combining three intensity images ( R, G, and B ) in the range 0 e 255. As being device-dependent, RGB signals produced by different cameras are different for the same scene. These signals will also change over time as they are dependent on the camera settings and scenes ( Van Poucke et al. , 2010 ). Therefore, measurements of col- our and colour differences cannot be conducted on RGB im- ages directly. On the other hand, different light sources present different emission spectra dominated by diverse wavelengths that affect those reflected by the object under analysis ( Costa et al. , 2009 ). Therefore, in order to mini- mize the effects of illuminants and camera settings, colour calibration prior to photo/image interpretation is required in food processing to quantitatively compare samples’ colour during workflow with many devices ( Menesatti et al. , 2012 ). sRGB is a device-independent colour space that has relationship with the CIE colourimetric colour spaces. Most of the variability introduced by the camera and illumi- nation conditions could be eliminated by finding the rela- tionship between the varying and unknown camera RGB and the s RGB colour space ( Van Poucke et al., 2010 ). Dif- ferent calibration algorithms defining the relationship be- tween the input RGB colour space of the camera and the s RGB colour space have been published using various methods ( Van Poucke et al. , 2010 ). Several software are available to perform colour calibration using a colour pro- file assignable to the image that deals with different devices (e.g., ProfileMaker, Monaco Profiler, EZcolour, i1Extreme and many others), but they are often too imprecise for sci- entific purposes. Therefore, polynomial algorithms, multi- variate statistics, neural networks, and their combinations are proposed for the colour calibration ( Menesatti et al. , 2012 ). Mendoza et al. (2006) transferred RGB into sRGB according to IEC 61966-2-1 (1999) for the colour measure- ments of agricultural foods. Costa et al. (2009) compared three calibration systems, namely partial least squares (PLS), second order polynomial interpolation (POLY2), and ProfileMaker Pro 5.0 software (PROM) under eight dif- ferent light conditions. Results show that PLS and POLY2 achieved better calibration with respect to the conventional software (PROM). Van Poucke et al. (2010) used three 1D look-up tables and polynomial modelling to ensure repro- ducible colour content of digital images. A ‘reference chart’ called the MacBeth Colour Checker Chart Mini [MBCCC] (GretagMacBeth AG, Regensdorf, Switzerland) was used in the colour target-based calibration by trans- forming the input RGB colour space into the sRGB colour space. Gurbuz, Kawakita, and Ando (2010) proposed a col- our calibration method for multi-camera systems by


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utilizing a set of robustly detected stereo correspondences between camera pairs, resulting in a 3 4 coefficient ma- trix multiplier that can be used for colour calibration. Costa et al. (2012) calibrated digital images of whole gilthead seabream using a PLS approach with a standard colour chart. Recently, Menesatti et al. (2012) applied the “3D Thin-Plate Spline” warping approach to calibrate colours in s RGB space. The performance of this method was com- pared with other two common approaches, namely commercial calibration system (ProfileMaker) and partial least square analysis under two different cameras and four different light conditions. Compared to the com- mercial methods (ProfileMaker) and the multivariate PLS approach, the Thin-Plate Spline approach significantly diminished both, distances from the reference and the inter-distances setup experiment, and was the most robust against lighting conditions and sensor typology (Menesatti et al. , 2012 ).

Colour constancy and illumination estimation Colour constancy is the phenomenon by which per- ceived object colour tends to stay constant under changes in illumination ( Ling & Hurlbert, 2008 ). Colour constancy is not a property of objects; it is a perceptual phenomenon, the result of mechanisms in the eye and brain ( Hurlbert, 2007 ). Colour constancy is important for object recogni- tion, scene understanding, image reproduction as well as digital photography ( Li, Xu, & Feng, 2009 ). There are three factors affecting the image recorded by a camera, namely the physical content of the scene, the illumination incident on the scene, and the characteristics of the camera (Barnard, Cardei, & Funt, 2002 ). An object can appear dif- ferent colour under changing colour. The objective of com- putational colour constancy is to find a nontrivial illuminant invariant description of a scene from an image taken under unknown lighting conditions, either by directly mapping the image to a standardized illuminant invariant representa- tion, or by determining a description of the illuminant which can be used for subsequent colour correction of the image ( Barnard, Cardei et al. , 2002 ). The procedure of computational colour constancy includes two steps: esti- mating illumination parameters and using these parameters to get the objects’ colour under a known canonical light source (Li et al. , 2009 ). The first step, illumination estima- tion, is important in colour constancy computation (Li et al., 2009 ). So far, a number of leading colour constancy algorithms were proposed that focus on the illumination es- timation ( Li et al. , 2009 ). These algorithms can be gener- ally divided into two major groups: unsupervised approaches and supervised ones. The algorithms falling in the first category include Max RGB , grey world algorithm, Shades of grey (SoG), and Grey surface identification (GSI). The other colour constancy category includes those training-based solutions, such as Bayesian colour con- stancy, Neural Network method, support vector regression. Recently, Shi, Xiong, and Funt (2011) proposed a method

called thin-plate spline interpolation to estimate the colour of the incident illumination. The resulted illumination- estimation can be used to provide colour constancy under changing illumination conditions and automatic white bal- ancing for digital cameras ( Shi et al. , 2011 ). A review of these algorithms and their comparison can be found else- where ( Barnard, Cardei et al., 2002 ; Barnard, Martin, Coath, & Funt, 2002 ).

Applications Nowadays, computer vision has found extraordinary in- terests as a key inspection method for non-destructive and rapid colour measurement of food and food products. If implemented in processing lines, computer vision systems will provide precise inspection and increase throughput in the production and packaging process. Table 1 summarizes applications of using computer vision for food colour evaluation.

Meat and fish Beef Freshness is an important factor for consumers to buy

meat (Maguire, 1994 ). ‘Red’ and ‘bright red’ lean is asso- ciated by consumers with fresh beef, while brownish colour

is considered to be an indicator of state or spoiled beef

( Larrain , Schaefer, & Reed, 2008 ). Colourimeters have

been intensively studied for determining colour differences

of fresh meat using various CIE colour expressions, such as

lightness ( L *), redness ( a *), yellowness ( b *), hue angle,

and chroma ( Larrain et al. , 2008 ). However, these works have limitation of scanning a small surface area. Computer vision is considered as a promising method for predicting colour of meat ( Mancini & Hunt, 2005 ; Tan, 2004 ). Back in the eighties of the last century, computer vision has been used to detect colour changes during cooking of beef ribeye steaks ( Unklesbay, Unklesbay, & Keller, 1986 ). The mean and standard deviation of the red, green and blue colours were found to be sufficient to differentiate between 8 of 10 classes of steak doneness. Later, Gerrard, Gao, and Tan (1996) determined muscle colour of beef

ribeye steaks using computer vision. Means of red and green ( m R and m G ) were significant (Coefficient of Determi- nation (R 2 ) ¼ 0.86) for the prediction of colour scores which were determined using USDA lean colour guide. In order to improve the results, Tan, Gao, and Gerrard (1999) used fuzzy logic and artificial neural network tech- niques to analyze the colour scores and a 100% classifica- tion rate was achieved. In another work, Larrain et al. (2008) applied computer vision to estimate CIE colour co- ordinates of beef as compared to a colourimeter. In their work, CIE L *, a *, and b * were measured using a colourim- eter (Minolta Chromameter CR-300, Osaka, Japan) with

a 1 cm aperture, illuminant C and a 2 viewing angle.

RGB values obtained from computer vision were trans- formed to CIE L * a * b * colour spaces using the following

D. Wu, D.-W. Sun / Trends in Food Science & Technology 29 (2013) 5e 20


Table 1. Summary of computer vision applications for food colour evaluation.







Detection of colour changes during


Unklesbay et al., 1986



Prediction of colour scores Prediction of sensory colour responses Estimation of CIE colour coordinates as compared to a colourimeter

R 2 ¼ 0.86

Gerrard et al., 1996 Tan et al., 1999 Larrain et al., 2008


R 2 ¼ 0.58 for L* R 2 ¼ 0.96 for a* R 2 ¼ 0.56 for b* R 2 ¼ 0.94 for hue angle R 2 ¼ 0.93 for chroma 86.8% using MLR 94.7% using SVM R ¼ 0.52 using MLR

Prediction of official colour scores

Sun et al., 2011


Evaluation of fresh pork loin colour

Lu et al., 2000



¼ 0.75 using NN


Prediction of colour scores


Tan et al., 2000 O’Sullivan et al., 2003 Oliveira & Balaban, 2006 Yagiz et al., 2009


Prediction of the sensory visual quality Detection of colour change Colour measurement as compared to




Prediction of colour score assigned by


¼ 0.95

Quevedo et al., 2010


sensory panel

Prediction of colour score as compared to the Roche cards and a colourimeter Colour evaluation

Similar to Roche SalmoFan linear ruler R ¼ 0.96 for hue

Misimi et al., 2007

Orange Juice

Fernandez-Vazquez et al., 2011



¼ 0.069 for chroma


¼ 0.92 for lightness


Measurement of colour appearance

R 2 ¼ 0.84 for lightness compared to visual estimates R 2 ¼ 0.89 for colourfulness compared to visual estimates R 2 ¼ 0.98 for hue compared to visual estimates R 2 ¼ 0.99 for lightness compared to spectroradiometer R 2 ¼ 0.90 for colourfulness compared to spectroradiometer R 2 ¼ 0.99 for hue compared to spectroradiometer

Martin et al., 2007


Determination of colour as compared to the colourimetry Colour measurement as compared to two

Sun et al., 2004

Potato chip

Scanlon et al., 1994



Colour measurement as compared by the sensory assessors Colour measurement as compared by the sensory assessors Colour measurement as compared by the sensory assessors


Segnini et al., 1999a


> 0.79 between L * and most of the

Segnini et al., 1999b

sensory colour attributes


¼ 0.9711 using linear model for

Pedreschi et al., 2011

smooth potato chips



¼ 0.9790 using quadratic model for

smooth potato chips



¼ 0.7869 using linear model for

smooth potato chips



¼ 0.8245 using quadratic model for

smooth potato chips


Development of an computer vision

Pedreschi et al., 2006

system to measure the colour of potato




Measurement of the colour of the seed

High linear correlations ( p < 0.05)

Zapotoczny & Majewska, 2010

coat as compared to the




Measurement of the colour as compared to a colourimeter

R 2 ¼ 0.80 for L* R 2 ¼ 0.97 for a* R 2 ¼ 0.61 for b*

Mendoza & Aguilera, 2004

MLR: Multiple linear regression.SVM: Support vector machine.R : Correlation coefficient.R 2 : Coefficient of determination.


D. Wu, D.-W. Sun / Trends in Food Science & Technology 29 (2013) 5e20

steps. RGB was first converted to XYZ D65 using the matrix transform ( Pascale, 2003 ):





D 65




D 65


5 ¼ 2 0 : 2127

0 : 4125 0 :3576 0 : 1804




0 : 0193 0 :1192 0 : 9503


0 : 0722 5 2







ð 1 Þ

The obtained XYZ D65 was then converted to XYZ C using the Bradford matrix transform ( Pascale, 2003 ):










5 ¼ 2 0 : 0123

0 : 007 0 : 9847

0 : 0038 0 : 0072 1 :0892

1 : 0095



0 :0033 5 2






D 65




D 65



ð 2 Þ

Finally, XYZ C was converted into CIE C L * a * b * using the following equations ( Konica Minolta, 1998 ):

L ¼ 116 ð Y = Y n Þ 1=3 16

a ¼

b ¼ 200 h ð Y = Y n Þ 1=3 ð Z = Z n Þ 1=3 i

500 h ð X = X n Þ 1=3 ð Y = Y n Þ 1=3 i

ð 3 Þ

where X n , Y n , and Z n are the values for X, Y , and Z for the illuminant used, in this case 0.973, 1.000, and 1.161 respec- tively. Also, ( X/ X n ) 1/3 was replaced by [7.787 (X / X n ) þ 16/116] if X /X n was below 0.008856; ( Y / Y n ) 1/3 was replaced by [7.787 ( Y /Y n ) þ 16/116] if Y /Y n was below 0.008856; and (Z /Z n ) 1/3 was replaced by [7.787 ( Z /Z n ) þ 16/116] if Z/ Z n was below 0.008856 (Konica Minolta, 1998 ). When L * a * b * were transformed, hue angle and chroma were calculated from a * and b * values. Regressions of colourimeter on computer vision for a *, hue angle and chroma had R 2 values of 0.96, 0.94, and 0.93, while there were only 0.58 and 0.56 of R 2 for L * and b *. Recently, Sun, Chen, Berg, and Magolski (2011) analyzed 21 colour features obtained from images of fresh lean beef for predicting official beef colour scores. Multiple linear regression (MLR) had the correct percent- age of 86.8% of beef colour muscle scores and better per- formance of 94.7% was achieved using support vector machine (SVM), showing that computer vision technique can provide an effective tool for predicting colour scores of beef muscle.

Pork In addition to beef colour, fresh pork colour was also evaluated by using computer vision (Tan, 2004 ). Early work was carried out by Lu, Tan, Shatadal, and Gerrard (2000) , who applied computer vision to evaluate fresh pork loin colour. Colour image features analyzed in this study included mean (m R , m G and m B ) and standard devia- tion ( s R , s G and s B ) of red, green, and blue bands of the segmented muscle area. Both MLR and neural network (NN) models were established to determine the colour scores based on the images features as inputs. The correla- tion coefficient between the predicted and the sensory col- our scores was 0.52 in MLR model, with 84.1% of the 44 pork loin samples having prediction errors lower than 0.6,

which was considered negligible from a practical view- point. For the NN model, 93.2% of the samples had predic- tion errors of 0.6 or lower, with the correlation coefficient

of 0.75. Results showed that a computer vision system is

an efficient tool for measuring sensory colour of fresh

pork. Later, Tan, Morgan, Ludas, Forrest, and Gerrard (2000) used computer vision to predict colour scores of fresh loin chops, which were visually assessed by an un- trained panel in three separated studies. After training

pork images classified by the panel, the computer vision

system was capable of classifying pork loin chops up to

86% agreement with visually assessed colour scores. In an- other study, the effectiveness of computer vision and col- ourimeter was compared in predicting the sensory visual quality of pork meat patties (M. longissimus dorsi ) as deter- mined by a trained and an untrained sensory panel ( O’Sullivan et al. , 2003 ). Compared to the colourimeter, computer vision had a higher correction with the sensory terms determined by both trained and untrained sensory panelists. This was due to the fact that the entire surface of sample was measured by computer vision and therefore computer vision took a more representative measurement compared to the colourimeter.

Fish Consumers commonly purchase fish based on visual ap- pearance (colour). Gormley (1992) found that consumers associate colour of fish products with the freshness of a product having better flavour and higher quality. Colour charts, such as SalmonFan card (Hoffmann-La Roche Basel, Switzerland), are generally used for colour assess- ment in the fish industry (Quevedo et al. , 2010 ). However, such measurement is laborious, tedious, subjective, and time-consuming. Quevedo et al. (2010) developed a com- puter vision method to assign colour score in salmon fillet according to SalmonFan card. The computer vision sys- tem was calibrated in order to obtain L * a * b * from RGB us- ing 30 colour charts and 20 SalmonFan cards. Calibration errors for L * a * b * were 2.7%, 1%, and 1.7%, respectively, with a general error range of 1.83%. On the basis of the calibrated transformation matrix, a high correlation coeffi- cient of 0.95 was obtained between the SalmonFan score assigned by computer vision and the sensory panel. Good results showed the potential of using computer vision tech- nique to qualify salmon fillets based on colour. In another study, Misimi, Mathiassen, and Erikson (2007) compared the results of computer vision with the values determined manually using the Roche SalmonFan lineal ruler and Roche colour card. The results demonstrated that the com- puter vision method had the good evaluation of colour as the Roche SalmoFan linear ruler. This study also found that the colour values generated by the chromameter had large deviations in mean value to those generated by the computer vision. This was due to the brighter illumination used by the computer vision setup and the different algo- rithms used to convert RGB into L * a * b * for two methods

D. Wu, D.-W. Sun / Trends in Food Science & Technology 29 (2013) 5e 20


( Misimi et al. , 2007 ). The comparison of the performance of a computer vision system and a colourimeter was also compared to measure the colour of uncooked fillets from Gulf of Mexico sturgeons fed three different diets, during storage on ice for 15 days ( Oliveira & Balaban, 2006 ). In order to do the comparison, D E values were calculated from the L * a * b * values measured using both the computer vision system and the colourimeter. The D E value was used to measure the “total” colour change, which was calculated by the following function:

D E ¼



ð L o L i Þ 2 þð a o a i Þ 2 þð b o b i Þ 2


4 Þ

where, the subscript o refers to the values at time 0, and i

refers to values at 5, 10, or 15 days. D E values determined using computer vision showed colour change over storage time, which was in accordance with mild colour changes visually observed in the images of the centre slices of the sturgeon fillets. However, it was hard to find such colour change using the colourimeter. Moreover, there was signif- icant difference of D E values ( p < 0.05) between instru- ments, except for day 0. The difference could be due to the different average daylight illuminants used, namely D65 with a colour temperature of 6504 K for the colourim- eter and D50 with a colour temperature of 5000 K for the machine vision system. Similarly, Yagiz, Balaban, Kristinsson, Welt, and Marshall (2009) compared a Minolta colourimeter and machine vision system in measuring col- our of irradiated Atlantic salmon. There were significantly higher readings obtained by the computer vision system for

L *, a *, b * values than the Minolta colourimeter. Visual

comparison was then conducted to illustrate the actual col- ours to evaluate the measurements of the two instruments. The colour represented by the computer vision system was much closer to the average real colour of Atlantic salmon fillets, while that measured using the colourimeter was purplish based on average L *, a *, b * values ( Fig. 4 ). The differences between colours measured by computer

4 ). The differences between colours measured by computer Fig. 4 . Colour representations of Minolta

Fig. 4. Colour representations of Minolta and machine vision reading results and actual pictures of differently treated salmon fillets and stan- dard red plate (Yagiz et al., 2009).

vision and colourimeter in this study ( Yagiz et al. , 2009 ) were similar to those of the study carried out by Oliveira and Balaban (2006) . However, unlike Oliveira and Balaban (2006) used different illuminants, Yagiz et al. (2009) used the same illuminant, i.e., D65 with a colour temperature of 6504 K, for both instruments. In addition, the standard red plates they used for the calibration of two instruments had the similar L*, a *, b * values. Hence, the authors ( Yagiz et al. , 2009 ) recommended caution in re- porting colour values measured by any system, even when the ‘reference’ tiles were measured correctly. There are var- ious factors that can affect the colour readings, such as the surface roughness and texture, the amount of surface ‘shine’, the geometry of the measuring instrument. It is rec- ommended to visually compare the colour formed by the L *, a *, b * values read from any device with the observed colour of the sample.

Liquid food products Orange juice Some studies have revealed that the colour of orange juice is related to the consumer’s perception of flavour, sweetness and other quality characteristics ( Fernandez- Vazquez, Stinco, Melendez-Martinez, Heredia, & Vicario, 2011 ). Colour is found to influence sweetness in orange drinks and affects intensity of typical flavour in most fruit drinks ( Bayarri, Calvo, Costell, & Duran, 2001 ). Instead of subjective visual evaluation, traditional instruments such as colourimeter have been used for the objective col- our evaluation of orange juice ( Melendez-Martinez et al. , 2005 ). New advances in computer vision offer the possibil- ity of evaluating colour in terms of millions of pixels at rel- atively low cost. Fernandez-Vazquez et al. (2011) explored the relationship between computer vision and sensory eval- uation of the colour attributes (lightness, chroma and hue) in orange juices. Hue ( R ¼ 0.96) and lightness ( R ¼ 0.92) were well correlated between panelists’ colour evaluation and the image values but not chroma ( R ¼ 0.069). The poor measurement of chroma was proba- bly due to the fact that it is not an intuitive attribute.

Alcoholic beverage Colour, which is one of the main parameters of the qual- ity of wines, affects the determination of aroma, odour, va- riety, and the overall acceptability by consumers ( Martin, Ji, Luo, Hutchings, & Heredia, 2007 ). Martin et al. (2007) measured colour appearance of red wines using a calibrated computer vision camera for various wines with reference to the change of depth. The results from computer vision had good correlations with visual esti- mates for lightness (R 2 ¼ 0.84), colourfulness ( R 2 ¼ 0.89), and hue (R 2 ¼ 0.98) and with a Minolta CS-1000 tele-spectroradiometer ( R 2 ¼ 0.99 for lightness, R 2 ¼ 0.90 for colourfulness, and R 2 ¼ 0.99 for hue). In an- other study, Sun, Chang, Zhou, and Yu (2004) investigated computer vision for determining beer colour as compared


D. Wu, D.-W. Sun / Trends in Food Science & Technology 29 (2013) 5e20

to the European Brewery Convention (EBC) colourimetry.

A high positive correlation was found between colours

measured by computer vision and those determined by us- ing spectrophotometry and colourimetry, demonstrating the feasibility of determining beer colour using computer vision. The computer vision was highly repeatable with a standard deviation of zero for measuring the colour of beer.

Other applications Colour of potato chips is an important attribute in the

definition of the quality for the potato processing industry and it is strictly related to consumer perception (Pedreschi, Leon, Mery, & Moyano, 2006 ; Segnini, Dejmek, & Oste, 1999b; Pedreschi, Bunger, Skurtys, Allen, & Rojas, 2012 ). As an early research, Scanlon, Roller, Mazza, and Pritchard (1994) used computer vision

to characterise colour of chips. On the basis of mean grey

level values from specific regions of potato chips, it was

feasible to distinguish differences in chip colour from pota- toes stored at the two temperatures and to discriminate dif- ferent frying times for potato chips that had been stored at 5 C. Good relationships were obtained between colour as- sessed by mean grey level and colour measured by the Ag- tron M31A colour meter and Hunter Lab D25L-2 colourimeter. Later, Segnini et al. (1999a) developed a new, easy and inexpensive procedure to quantify the col- our of potato chips by using computer vision technique. There was a clear relationship between the obtained L *, a *, or b * and the scale by human eyes. The method had less influence from the undulating surface of the chips and was not sensitive to light intensity. In another study, Segnini et al. (1999b) investigated the potential of using computer vision for measuring colour of commercial potato chips as compared to sensory analysis. There was a good relationship ( R > 0.79) between L * and most of the sensory colour attributes, which include “yellow colour”, “burnt as- pect” and “sugar coloured aspect”. The a * attribute also showed a good relationship with “burnt aspect”, while the b * attribute did not significantly correlate with any of the sensory parameters ( p > 0.05). Recently, Pedreschi, Mery, Bunger, and Yanez (2011) established the relationships be- tween colour measured by the sensory assessors and the colour determined objectively in L*, a *, b * units by a com- puter vision system. Good relationships were found for smooth potato chips using both linear (0.9711) and qua- dratic (0.9790) models, while undulated chips only had R

of 0.7869 and 0.8245 suing linear and quadratic methods,

respectively. Zapotoczny and Majewska (2010) measured the col- our of the seed coat of wheat kernels using computer vi- sion. The colour of the seed coat was saved in RGB space after image acquisition, and was then transformed into XYZ and L * a * b *, which enabled the computation of the hue and saturation of colour. After image analysis, high linear correlations ( p < 0.05) were found between colour

measurements of the seed coat performed by computer vision and spectrophotometer. The results of this study showed that the colour of the seed coat of wheat kernels can be determined by computer vision instead of spectrophotometry. Mendoza and Aguilera (2004) implemented computer vision to measure the colour of bananas with different rip- ening stages. There was a good correlation ( R 2 ¼ 0.97) be- tween a * values obtained with the computer vision system and the Hunter Lab colourimeter, while smaller correlation coefficients were obtained for L * ( R 2 ¼ 0.80) and b * ( R 2 ¼ 0.61) values. This difference between two methods was mainly due to the fact that measurements with the col- ourimeter did not extend over the whole surface of the ba- nanas which had nonhomogeneous colours during ripening, in particular at the ends of the bananas. On the other hand, the computer vision system is possible to assess the overall colour change during ripening, similar to human percep- tion. Recently, Hashim et al. (in press) used computer vi- sion to detect colour changes in bananas during the appearance of chilling injury symptoms. The raw RGB values obtained were transformed to normalized rgb and CIEL*a*b* space to remove the brightness from the colour and to distinguish the colour similar to human perception. Results show that the r and g in normalized rgb colour space have strong correlation with visual assessment.

Quantification of colour nonhomogeneity Colour nonhomogeneity is an important appearance at- tribute and its quantitative measurement is required for most food products which have nonuniform colours. However, colourimeters fail for nonuniform colours be- cause only the “average” colour of food products can be measured by colourimeters. For this reason, Balaban (2008) applied computer vision technique to quantify uni- form or nonuniform colours of food products. Several im- age analysis methods were applied, which included colour blocks, contours, and “colour change index” (CCI). The calculation of colour blocks included three steps:

firstly, the number of colours in the RGB colour space was reduced by dividing each colour axis into either 4 (4 4 4 ¼ 64 colour blocks) or 8 (8 8 8 ¼ 512 col- our blocks) or 16 (16 16 16 ¼ 4096 colour blocks); secondly, the number of pixels that fall within a colour block is counted, and the percentage of that colour was cal- culated based on the total view area (total number of pixels) of the object; and finally, an appropriate threshold was set to consider only those colour blocks that have percent areas above that threshold. On the basis of the set threshold, the higher the number of colour blocks, the more nonhomoge- neous the colour is. The calculation of colour co ntours included two steps:

firstly, colour attributes lower than, or higher than a given threshold, or attributes between two thresholds were identified; secondly, the per centage of pixels within con- tours based on the total view area of an object was

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calculated. The colours of defective areas, such as dark spots could be quantified based on the calculation of contours. The calculation of CCI was based on colour primitives, which are several continuous areas of an image where the “intensity” of any pixel is within a given threshold value. The more colour primitives in an image, the more nonho- mogeneous the colour of that object is. The calculation function of CCI was proposed as follows:


P D I for all neighoring pixels

P distances between equivalent circles

number of neighbors object area


ð 5 Þ

The results of the study by Balaban (2008) showed that the colour blocks method was competent for the case if the range of hue values is large such as mangoes; and the CCI method did well if the hue range is narrow as in the case of rabbit samples. Furthermore, because it is not easy to quantify nonho- mogeneous colours by sensory panels, most researches were conducted in the comparison and correlation of homo- geneous colour measurements between computer vision

and instrumental or visual colour analysis. For this reason, Balaban, Aparicio, Zotarelli, and Sims (2008) proposed

a method to quantify the perception of nonhomogeneous

colours by sensory panelists and compared the differences in colour evaluation between a computer vision system and sensory panels for the perception of nonhomogeneous colours. Generally, the more nonuniform the colour of

a sample, the higher the error of a panelist was in quantify-

ing the colour of a sample, which showed that panelists had more difficulty in evaluating more nonhomogeneous col- ours. Moreover, no significant difference in D E values was found between panelists’ errors based on evaluating the real fruit and evaluating its image (Balaban et al., 2008 ). Therefore, images can be used to evaluate colour in- stead of the real samples, which may be significant, since visual evaluation of images eliminates temporal and geo- graphical restrictions, especially for the evaluation of per- ishable foods. In addition, images can be transferred electronically to distant places and stored much longer than the food, which allows much more flexibility in the analysis of visual attributes of food products.

Development of computerized colour measurement system Nowadays, computer vision technique has been used on

a production line or in the quality control lab. Several

works have been carried out to develop computerized col- our measurement systems. Kihc, Onal-Ulusoy, Yildirim, and Boyaci (2007) designed a computerized inspection sys- tem that uses a flat-bed scanner, a computer, and an algo- rithm and graphical user interface coded and designed in Matlab 7.0 to determine food colour based on CIE

L* a * b * colour space. The USA Federal Colour Standard printouts (SP) comprised of 456 different colours were used to train and test the artificial neural network (ANN) integrated the system. High correlations were obtained be- tween the results estimated from the computer vision sys- tem and those obtained from a spectrophotometer for test images data set. R 2 values were 0.991, 0.989, and 0.995

for L*, a *, and b *, respectively. When various food samples were used to evaluate the performance of the system, a good agreement was also found between colour measured using the system and the spectrophotometer ( R 2 values were 0.958, 0.938, and 0.962 for L *, a *, and b *, respec- tively). The mean errors of 0.60% and 2.34% obtained respectively for test and various food samples showed the feasibility of using computer vision for the measurement of food colour instead of spectrophotometer. In another work, Pedreschi et al. (2006) designed and implemented an inexpensive computer vision system to measure repre- sentatively and precisely the colour of potato chips in

L * a * b * units from RGB images. The system had the func-

tions of image acquisition, image storage, image pre- processing, object segmentation, feature extraction, and colour transformation from RGB to L * a * b * units. The sys- tem allowed the measurements of the colour over the entire surface of a potato chip or over a small specific surface re- gion of interest in an easy, precise, representative, objective and inexpensive way. There are also some other commer- cial systems available for food colour measurement, such as QualiVision system (Dipix Technologies, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), Lumetech Optiscan system (Koch Lume- tech, Kansas City, Mo., USA), Model L-10 Vision Weigher (Marel, Reykjavik, Iceland), Parasensor system (Precarn, Ottawa, Canada), Prophecy 550 system (Imaging Technol- ogy, Bedford, Mass.), and SINTEF system (SINTEF, Oslo, Norway) ( Balaban & Odabasi, 2006 ).

Advantages and disadvantages of using computer vision Many reviews have concluded the advantages and disad- vantages of computer vision (Brosnan & Sun, 2004 ; Du & Sun, 2004 ; Gumus, Balaban, & Unlusayin, 2011 ). Especially for food colour measurement, the main advan- tages of applying computer vision technique include:

The rapidness, preciseness, objectiveness, efficiency, consistency, and non-destruction of the measurement of colour data with low cost and no sample pretreatment; The ability of providing high spatial resolution, analyzing each pixel of the surface of a food product, extracting more colour features with spatial information, analyzing the whole food even it is of small or irregular shape and of nonuniform colours, and selecting a region of interest, and generating the distribution map of colour; The automation of mass labour intensive operations and reduction of tedious and subjective human visual in- volvement; and


D. Wu, D.-W. Sun / Trends in Food Science & Technology 29 (2013) 5e20

The availability of rapid generation of reproducible re- sults and a permanent storage of colour data for further analysis by keeping the picture.

Although computer vision has the aforementioned ad- vantages, it does have some disadvantages ( Brosnan & Sun, 2004 ; Gumus et al., 2011 ):

The difficulties encountered with objects that are diffi- cult to separate from the background, overlapping ob- jects, or when both sides of a food need to be evaluated; The requirement of careful calibration and setting of camera and well-defined and consistent illumination (such as a light box, where the light intensity, spectrum and direction are all controlled); and The possible variation of intensity and the spectrum of light bulbs over time ( Balaban & Odabasi, 2006 ).

Conclusions and future trends This review covers fundamentals and typical applica- tions of computer vision in food colour measurement. As a science-based automated food inspection technique, com- puter vision has been proved to be efficient and reliable for colour measurement with the capabilities not possible with other methods, especially the ability for analyzing food samples with nonhomogeneous colours, shapes, and sur- faces. The colour measurement of using computer vision is repeatable and flexible, permits the plant application with high throughput and accuracy and a relatively low cost, and allows human visual inspectors to focus on more demanding and skilled jobs, instead of undertaking tedious, laborious, time-consuming, and repetitive inspec- tion tasks. Moreover, besides colour measurement, com- puter vision allows evaluation of other quality attributes, such as shape, size, orientation, defects, and nutrition. Based on the combination of these attributes, computer vi- sion offers the possibility of designing inspection systems for the automatic grading and quality determination of food products. On the basis of computer vision, it is feasi- ble to reduce industrial dependence on human graders, in- crease production throughput, decrease production cost, improve product consistency and wholesomeness, and enhance public confidence in the safety and quality of the food products. On the other hand, despite the above great research efforts on colour measurement of food products using com- puter vision, there are still many challenges remain to de- sign a computer vision system that has sufficient flexibility and adaptability to handle the biological varia- tions in food products. Further in-depth research is required on system robustness, real-time capability, sample han- dling, and standardization, which also create many future research opportunities. Some difficulties arise from the seg- mentation algorithms, which is a prerequisite to the success of all subsequent operations leading to successful computer

vision-based colour measurement without human interven- tion. Due to the complex nature of food images, no existing algorithm is totally effective for food-image segmentation. The development of efficient and robust calibration is also required to reduce the influence from the change of camera, illumination, and environment. Besides image process algo- rithms, the development in hardware and software of com- puter vision system is also critical to measure colour of food products rapidly and accurately. A faster, lighter/ smaller, and less expensive hardware can decrease image acquisition and analysis time, improve the speed and space of storage, and increase the image resolution for detailed colour measurement.

Acknowledgements The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support provided by the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology under the Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme.


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