I get it, 'relatively novel'. So novel that we've been doing it for several decades and it has been used by everything from the atomic weapons program and space program to teaching Samsung how to eavesdrop on our living room conversations.
“This is the first time that we’re introducing probabilistic programming in the vision area,” says Tejas Kulkarni, an MIT graduate student in brain and cognitive sciences and first author on the new paper. “The whole hope is to write very flexible models, both generative and discriminative models, as short probabilistic code, and then not do anything else. General-purpose inference schemes solve the problems.”
Computer Vision research has been behind other AI areas in its use of generalisable code, but current AI and machine learning algorithms are effective and efficient enough that image processing with them is finally practical. That's the novelty.