Questions for ‘AI can now turn blurry thermal vision into crisp images’ 

Conventional thermal vision depicts this nighttime scene of a forest road in ghostly grays (top). A new AI-aided technology takes thermal data and creates a sharper image (bottom). The system adds color based on the objects detected, shading water blue, for example.

A typical thermal-vision image (top) renders this nighttime scene of a forest road in ghostly grays. Artificial intelligence takes those thermal data and creates a sharper image (bottom). The system adds color based on the objects detected — shading water blue, for example, and plants green.

F. Bao et al/Nature 2023

To accompany AI can now turn blurry thermal vision into crisp images


Before Reading:

1. If given the opportunity, how likely is it that you’d choose to ride in a self-driving car? Would you feel more safe, less safe or equally safe riding in such a car at night vs. during the day? Briefly explain your reasoning.

2. What is a piece of equipment or technology that a self-driving car would require, but that would be optional or absent in a normal car?

During Reading:

1. Thermal cameras work by detecting heat sources. To do that, they must sense particular wavelengths of light that our eyes cannot see. What kind of light do thermal cameras detect?

2. Regarding thermal imaging, what is “ghosting”? What problem does ghosting cause?

3. When scientists paired artificial intelligence (AI) with thermal-imaging technology, the technique produced more detailed images than produced by the thermal camera alone. What information did the AI reveal that the thermal camera on its own did not?

4. What extra or higher-quality data might imaging provide in self-driving cars using the type of AI described in the story?

5. Using current self-driving car technology, how might having many self-driving cars on the same road “confuse one another”? Why do researchers say AI technology could make self-driving car technology safer to scale up?

6. Researchers point out that despite the new camera’s potential, it’s unlikely to appear in vehicles in the near future. Give three reasons why.

7. Besides self-driving cars, in what other technology does Fanglin Bao hope to see this AI technology used?

After Reading

1. Besides image analysis, what is another existing technology or technique that AI might improve? Explain your answer. In your example, does AI serve more to overcome limitations of the technology? Or does it elevate this technology, offering it new capabilities?

 2. A dichotomy is when we think of two things as having a rigid division between the two (good vs. evil, for instance, or kind vs. mean.) “Dichotomies” sometimes oversimplify the contrasted ideas, however, making the concepts seem more distinct than they really are. The new research deals with a potential dichotomy in the ease by which people can make sense of the terrain based on whether it’s day or night. Look again at the opening image in this story. Explain whether you think “dichotomy” is an appropriate term for describing a night view with and without the new camera — or a night view of that scene versus one seen by day.

3. Dichotomies are sometimes used as literary devices or models to explain contrasted concepts. Besides those already mentioned (day vs. night & good vs. evil), give an example of a dichotomy you’ve seen used in such a way either in science or in other aspects of life. How might such a dichotomy, if given only passing thought, oversimplify an otherwise complex pair of concepts?