A Camera With Computer Vision

Computer vision is a tricky thing to stuff into a small package, but last year’s Hackaday Prize had an especially interesting project make it into the 50 top finalists. The OpenMV is a tiny camera module with a powerful microcontroller that will detect faces, take a time-lapse, record movies, and detect specific markers or colors. Like a lot of the great projects featured in last year’s Hackaday Prize, this one made it to Kickstarter and is, by far, the least expensive computer vision module available today.

[Ibrahim] began this project more than a year ago when he realized simple serial JPEG cameras were ludicrously expensive, and adding even simple machine vision tasks made the price climb even higher. Camera modules that go in low-end cell phones don’t cost that much, and high-power ARM microcontrollers are pretty cheap as well. The OpenMV project started, and now [Ibrahim] has a small board with a camera that runs Python and can be a master or slave to Arduinos or any other microcontroller board.

The design of the OpenMV is extraordinarily clever, able to serve as a simple camera module for a microcontroller project, or something that can do image processing and toggle a few pins according to logic at the same time. If you’ve ever wanted a camera that can track an object and control a pan/tilt servo setup by itself, here you go. It’s a very interesting accessory for robotics platforms, and surely something that could be used in a wide variety of projects.

Building A Better Serial Camera

If your next project does anything with cameras or machine vision, you’ll probably be looking at something like a USB webcam attached to an ARM board or a netbook. Sometimes, though, that setup blows will blow your budget – power or otherwise – out of the water. For small projects, you’re limited to small, serial-accessible cameras, and in that domain you really don’t have a lot of choices.

[Ibrahim] realized the cheapest serial cameras are about $35, and with basic image processing that cost skyrockets up to about $100. He set out to build his own alternative, and ended up with an awesome serial camera module that should only cost about $15 in quantity.

The module is built around an STM32F4 microcontroller running at 168 MHz. This micro has a DCMI port to which a OV9650 camera is attached. The resolution ends up being 1280×1024, far better than other serial cameras.

Already [Ibrahim] has the hardware working and a few demo apps. He has a real time color tracking demo (video below) up and running and a machine vision repo for his tiny camera. Now if we could only get a few of these boards on Tindie.

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