Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Magical Mystery Tour

Stuart Singer, vice president of Schneider Optics, is one of the most knowledgeable and passionate people you could ever meet. He knows light, optics, and lenses and can tell you exactly what you need to understand when choosing a lens for your machine-vision or image-processing application.

Unfortunately, that's where his talent ends.

Last year, at his company's Christmas party, Singer decided to practice his talents at magic. Rather than perform simple card tricks, Singer decided to impress his colleagues with a more sophisticated performance.

In his first attempt at magic, Singer revealed a "magic hat" from a trunk of props. Promising that his audience would be amazed at these cunning stunts, Singer poured a cupful of water into the hat, waved his magic wand, and placed the hat upon his head. Sadly, the capillary tubes within the hat failed to absorb this water, with the result that Mr. Singer drenched himself in water.

Not to be deterred, our indefatigable vice president moved on to his next trick, placing three eggs in the hat and beat them with his magic wand. But again, these eggs were not properly placed within the secret reinforced compartment inside the hat, a fact unrecognized by Singer. Placing the hat on his head resulted in our would-be magician being drenched in both water and
beaten eggs.

At this point, less determined folk may have quit and walked offstage in shame. But Stuart Singer is not a man to surrender easily. Instead, he proceeded to enlist a member of the audience in what would become his final trick -- thrusting a sword through the neck of the volunteer.

To perform this trick, as experienced magicians realize, a yoke to be placed over the head of the assistant is first shown to the audience. Passing the sword through an opening in the yoke gives the illusion that the sword will enter the subject's neck.

When the trick is performed, another opening in the yoke is used, so that the sword passes around the yoke bypassing the person's neck. Singer, feeling rather nervous about his first two dismal failures, did manage to show the audience how the sword would pass through the empty yoke and through the neck of the entrapped person.

After he heaved the yoke on the hapless audience member's neck, he thrust the sword through the yoke.

Unfortunately for the volunteer, Singer chose the wrong slot to insert the sword. Rather than pass around the yoke, the sword rammed into the subject, resulting in yelps of howling pain as the intrepid volunteer ran around, repeatedly screaming, "Take it out of my neck."

Worried hotel employees called the police as Singer packed his fat trunk and surreptitiously crept out of the back door. A "back door man" is not exactly the way a vice president wants to be remembered at a Christmas party.

Luckily, Singer does not perform magic tricks for his company at trade shows. Others that do, such as Edmund Optics, employ professional magicians to attract crowds. Thankfully for clients of Schneider Optics, Singer knows much more about lenses, lighting, and optics than magic. Indeed, in the March 2009 issue, he co-authored an article with Greg Hollows of Edmund Optics describing what you really need to know about choosing a machine-vision lens.

Unfortunately, some machine-vision component manufacturers still prefer to perform marketing tricks with their data sheets -- for example, describing lenses as "megapixel-compatible" without describing the measured features that show the performance of their products. Such measured features could include modulation transfer function curves, whether any alignment tools are provided, the lens performance at a given working distance, and how such lenses are used with specific image sensors. Only then will system integrators be provided a complete picture of the lens products they are purchasing.

Singer learned his lesson about "magic" last Christmas. Isn't it about time other manufacturers learned their lesson about magical marketing techniques?

1 comment:

pratishtha said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
Neck Pain