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Label Images with ML Kit on iOS

You can use ML Kit to label objects recognized in an image, using either an on-device model or a cloud model. See the overview to learn about the benefits of each approach.

See the ML Kit quickstart sample on GitHub for an example of this API in use.

Before you begin

  1. If you have not already added Firebase to your app, do so by following the steps in the getting started guide.
  2. Include the ML Kit libraries in your Podfile:
    pod 'Firebase/Analytics'
    pod 'Firebase/MLVision'

    # If using the on-device API: pod 'Firebase/MLVisionLabelModel'

    After you install or update your project's Pods, be sure to open your Xcode project using its .xcworkspace.
  3. In your app, import Firebase:

    Swift

    import Firebase

    Objective-C

    @import Firebase;
  4. If you want to use the Cloud-based model, and you have not already enabled the Cloud-based APIs for your project, do so now:

    1. Open the ML Kit APIs page of the Firebase console.
    2. If you have not already upgraded your project to a Blaze plan, click Upgrade to do so. (You will be prompted to upgrade only if your project isn't on the Blaze plan.)

      Only Blaze-level projects can use Cloud-based APIs.

    3. If Cloud-based APIs aren't already enabled, click Enable Cloud-based APIs.

    If you want to use only the on-device model, you can skip this step.

Now you are ready to label images using either an on-device model or a cloud-based model.

1. Prepare the input image

Create a VisionImage object using a UIImage or a CMSampleBufferRef.

To use a UIImage:

  1. If necessary, rotate the image so that its imageOrientation property is .up.
  2. Create a VisionImage object using the correctly-rotated UIImage. Do not specify any rotation metadata—the default value, .topLeft, must be used.

    Swift

    let image = VisionImage(image: uiImage)

    Objective-C

    FIRVisionImage *image = [[FIRVisionImage alloc] initWithImage:uiImage];

To use a CMSampleBufferRef:

  1. Create a VisionImageMetadata object that specifies the orientation of the image data contained in the CMSampleBufferRef buffer.

    To get the image orientation:

    Swift

    func imageOrientation(
        deviceOrientation: UIDeviceOrientation,
        cameraPosition: AVCaptureDevice.Position
        ) -> VisionDetectorImageOrientation {
        switch deviceOrientation {
        case .portrait:
            return cameraPosition == .front ? .leftTop : .rightTop
        case .landscapeLeft:
            return cameraPosition == .front ? .bottomLeft : .topLeft
        case .portraitUpsideDown:
            return cameraPosition == .front ? .rightBottom : .leftBottom
        case .landscapeRight:
            return cameraPosition == .front ? .topRight : .bottomRight
        case .faceDown, .faceUp, .unknown:
            return .leftTop
        }
    }

    Objective-C

    - (FIRVisionDetectorImageOrientation)
        imageOrientationFromDeviceOrientation:(UIDeviceOrientation)deviceOrientation
                               cameraPosition:(AVCaptureDevicePosition)cameraPosition {
      switch (deviceOrientation) {
        case UIDeviceOrientationPortrait:
          if (cameraPosition == AVCaptureDevicePositionFront) {
            return FIRVisionDetectorImageOrientationLeftTop;
          } else {
            return FIRVisionDetectorImageOrientationRightTop;
          }
        case UIDeviceOrientationLandscapeLeft:
          if (cameraPosition == AVCaptureDevicePositionFront) {
            return FIRVisionDetectorImageOrientationBottomLeft;
          } else {
            return FIRVisionDetectorImageOrientationTopLeft;
          }
        case UIDeviceOrientationPortraitUpsideDown:
          if (cameraPosition == AVCaptureDevicePositionFront) {
            return FIRVisionDetectorImageOrientationRightBottom;
          } else {
            return FIRVisionDetectorImageOrientationLeftBottom;
          }
        case UIDeviceOrientationLandscapeRight:
          if (cameraPosition == AVCaptureDevicePositionFront) {
            return FIRVisionDetectorImageOrientationTopRight;
          } else {
            return FIRVisionDetectorImageOrientationBottomRight;
          }
        default:
          return FIRVisionDetectorImageOrientationTopLeft;
      }
    }

    Then, create the metadata object:

    Swift

    let cameraPosition = AVCaptureDevice.Position.back  // Set to the capture device you used.
    let metadata = VisionImageMetadata()
    metadata.orientation = imageOrientation(
        deviceOrientation: UIDevice.current.orientation,
        cameraPosition: cameraPosition
    )

    Objective-C

    FIRVisionImageMetadata *metadata = [[FIRVisionImageMetadata alloc] init];
    AVCaptureDevicePosition cameraPosition =
        AVCaptureDevicePositionBack;  // Set to the capture device you used.
    metadata.orientation =
        [self imageOrientationFromDeviceOrientation:UIDevice.currentDevice.orientation
                                     cameraPosition:cameraPosition];
  2. Create a VisionImage object using the CMSampleBufferRef object and the rotation metadata:

    Swift

    let image = VisionImage(buffer: sampleBuffer)
    image.metadata = metadata

    Objective-C

    FIRVisionImage *image = [[FIRVisionImage alloc] initWithBuffer:sampleBuffer];
    image.metadata = metadata;

2. Configure and run the image labeler

To label objects in an image, pass the VisionImage object to the VisionImageLabeler's processImage() method.

  1. First, get an instance of VisionImageLabeler.

    If you want to use the on-device image labeler:

    Swift

    let labeler = Vision.vision().onDeviceImageLabeler()
    
    // Or, to set the minimum confidence required:
    // let options = VisionOnDeviceImageLabelerOptions()
    // options.confidenceThreshold = 0.7
    // let labeler = Vision.vision().onDeviceImageLabeler(options: options)
    

    Objective-C

    FIRVisionImageLabeler *labeler = [[FIRVision vision] onDeviceImageLabeler];
    
    // Or, to set the minimum confidence required:
    // FIRVisionOnDeviceImageLabelerOptions *options =
    //         [[FIRVisionOnDeviceImageLabelerOptions alloc] init];
    // options.confidenceThreshold = 0.7;
    // FIRVisionImageLabeler *labeler =
    //         [[FIRVision vision] onDeviceImageLabelerWithOptions:options];
    

    If you want to use the cloud image labeler:

    Swift

    let labeler = Vision.vision().cloudImageLabeler()
    
    // Or, to set the minimum confidence required:
    // let options = VisionCloudImageLabelerOptions()
    // options.confidenceThreshold = 0.7
    // let labeler = Vision.vision().cloudImageLabeler(options: options)
    

    Objective-C

    FIRVisionImageLabeler *labeler = [[FIRVision vision] cloudImageLabeler];
    
    // Or, to set the minimum confidence required:
    // FIRVisionCloudImageLabelerOptions *options =
    //         [[FIRVisionCloudImageLabelerOptions alloc] init];
    // options.confidenceThreshold = 0.7;
    // FIRVisionImageLabeler *labeler =
    //         [[FIRVision vision] cloudImageLabelerWithOptions:options];
    
  2. Then, pass the image to the processImage() method:

    Swift

    labeler.process(image) { labels, error in
        guard error == nil, let labels = labels else { return }
    
        // Task succeeded.
        // ...
    }
    

    Objective-C

    [labeler processImage:image
               completion:^(NSArray<FIRVisionImageLabel *> *_Nullable labels,
                            NSError *_Nullable error) {
                   if (error != nil) { return; }
    
                   // Task succeeded.
                   // ...
               }];
    

3. Get information about labeled objects

If image labeling succeeds, an array of VisionImageLabel objects will be passed to the completion handler. From each object, you can get information about a feature recognized in the image.

For example:

Swift

for label in labels {
    let labelText = label.text
    let entityId = label.entityID
    let confidence = label.confidence
}

Objective-C

for (FIRVisionImageLabel *label in labels) {
   NSString *labelText = label.text;
   NSString *entityId = label.entityID;
   NSNumber *confidence = label.confidence;
}

Tips to improve real-time performance

If you want to label images in a real-time application, follow these guidelines to achieve the best framerates:

  • Throttle calls to the image labeler. If a new video frame becomes available while the image labeler is running, drop the frame.

Next steps

Before you deploy to production an app that uses a Cloud API, you should take some additional steps to prevent and mitigate the effect of unauthorized API access.