Today’s the Day! NLM Pill Image Recognition Challenge Submission Period Opens

A mock-up of the basic funcationality envisioned: User takes a photo of an unknown pill. An algorithm searches the NLM RxIMAGE database and returns likely matches.The NLM Pill Image Recognition Challenge submission period opens today, April 4, 2016. A Federal Register notice and submission instructions provide further information.

Individuals and teams interested in participating must first register. At least one team member must be a US citizen or permanent resident or an entity that is incorporated in and maintains a primary place of business in the United States. NLM must receive submissions by the close of the submission period at 5:00 pm EDT on May 31, 2016.

The Challenge asks any and all innovators to design algorithms and software that can effectively match lower-quality photos—like those we take with smartphones— with high-quality publicly available images in the NLM RxIMAGE database. Today’s RxIMAGE has images and descriptions of about 4,000 prescription pills.

NLM researchers plan to use Challenge submissions and potentially work with Challenge participants to build a software system and an Application Programming Interface (API) underlying a consumer-facing smartphone app for image recognition of prescription pills.

The Challenge’s Notifications and FAQs Web page has been responding to questions about the Challenge, including the following:

  • One question suggested including a coin in a consumer-quality image of a pill to indicate pill size. The Challenge team replied that a photographer would have to have a coin at hand, and by design the Challenge has the fewest possible requirements.
  • Some faculty asked how long the publicly available image data provided to Challenge participants would continue to be available, because they would like to use those images in class assignments after the Challenge ends. The team indicated they have no plans to take down the data. They invite e-mails to about when and for what purposes future users would like to use the Challenge image data.

The Challenge is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Challenge under the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Reauthorization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-358).

#PillPic is the NLM Pill Image Recognition Challenge Twitter hashtag. #Publicprizes is the Federal hashtag.