Chips That Can See!

by CXOtoday Staff    Aug 10, 2004

California-based Canesta has released a developer kit today that will allow manufacturers across diverse verticals to incorporate machine vision into their products.

The kit will equip R&D professionals in robotics, materials handling, biometrics, vehicle safety, security, virtual control systems, and a wide variety of other potential or existing applications to build computer or “machine” vision, with unique 3-D imaging based on the company’s electronic perception technology.

The announcement accompanied the unveiling of a complete development platform for the company’s new Equinox perception chip - a low-cost, real-time 3-D sensor that makes it possible for ordinary devices and machines to “see” and interact with the world around them.

The development platform (which includes a single-chip 3-D “camera”) a USB interface to personal computers, and a Windows-based software development environment, will permit researchers to envision and prototype a wide range of novel and potentially important machine vision applications, particularly those not practical before the existence of the tiny chip.

“True 3-D image sensing is extremely useful for applications that need to look at a scene, and decompose it into objects,” said Canesta vice president Jim Spare.

“If you can not only resolve objects from the background, but also can acquire information about their size, shape, and distance from the sensor, then you open up an entire field of applications that are otherwise difficult or impossible to do. And, if you can accomplish this with a low-cost chip, then the opportunities are nearly unlimited,” added Spare.

According to Spare, Canesta’s Equinox chip resolves a scene into “pixels”, as does an ordinary camera chip, but instead of simply providing the brightness of each pixel, Equinox additionally provides the distance from each picture element to the sensor chip. In effect, this renders the scene into three-dimensional objects that are easily processed by even the tiny computers in ordinary devices such as cell phones or PDAs. “We call this ‘primary 3-D data’ and it eliminates the need for massive calculations of one or more 2-D images to accomplish the same tasks,” said Spare.

The development kit bundles a small 3-D camera (built using the Equinox chip) with a standard USB interface and cable, an application programming interface (API), and documentation. Developers will be able to prototype their application and code on a Windows PC, and then at future date, embed the same application in the end-user device, similar to the way single chip CMOS cameras are integrated into cell phones today.

The EP devkit includes a light source and matching optics which may be ordered in three versions, differing by field of view. EP devkit Model DP208 provides an 80-degree field of view; the DP205 gives 55 degrees; and the DP203 offers 30 degrees. Canesta will entertain developing other versions also.

Canesta is taking orders for all three versions of the EP DevKit now, with the 55-degree option shipping approximately 30 days ARO. The 30- and 80-degree variants will ship later in the year, but the company advises getting in the queue as soon as possible. The development platform costs $7,500.

The general class of applications possible using this version of Canesta’s electronic perception technology include size and depth detection, image segmentation, object classification, object tracking and location analysis, and human interaction.

Tags: Chips