OAK-D Depth Sensing AI Camera Gets Smaller And Lighter

The OAK-D is an open-source, full-color depth sensing camera with embedded AI capabilities, and there is now a crowdfunding campaign for a newer, lighter version called the OAK-D Lite. The new model does everything the previous one could do, combining machine vision with stereo depth sensing and an ability to run highly complex image processing tasks all on-board, freeing the host from any of the overhead involved.

Animated face with small blue dots as 3D feature markers.
An example of real-time feature tracking, now in 3D thanks to integrated depth sensing.

The OAK-D Lite camera is actually several elements together in one package: a full-color 4K camera, two greyscale cameras for stereo depth sensing, and onboard AI machine vision processing with Intel’s Movidius Myriad X processor. Tying it all together is an open-source software platform called DepthAI that wraps the camera’s functions and capabilities together into a unified whole.

The goal is to give embedded systems access to human-like visual perception in real-time, which at its core means detecting things, and identifying where they are in physical space. It does this with a combination of traditional machine vision functions (like edge detection and perspective correction), depth sensing, and the ability to plug in pre-trained convolutional neural network (CNN) models for complex tasks like object classification, pose estimation, or hand tracking in real-time.

So how is it used? Practically speaking, the OAK-D Lite is a USB device intended to be plugged into a host (running any OS), and the team has put a lot of work into making it as easy as possible. With the help of a downloadable application, the hardware can be up and running with examples in about half a minute. Integrating the device into other projects or products can be done in Python with the help of the DepthAI SDK, which provides functionality with minimal coding and configuration (and for more advanced users, there is also a full API for low-level access). Since the vision processing is all done on-board, even a Raspberry Pi Zero can be used effectively as a host.

There’s one more thing that improves the ease-of-use situation, and that’s the fact that support for the OAK-D Lite (as well as the previous OAK-D) has been added to a software suite called the Cortic Edge Platform (CEP). CEP is a block-based visual coding system that runs on a Raspberry Pi, and is aimed at anyone who wants to rapidly prototype with AI tools in a primarily visual interface, providing yet another way to glue a project together.

Earlier this year we saw the OAK-D used in a system to visually identify weeds and estimate biomass in agriculture, and it’s exciting to see a new model being released. If you’re interested, the OAK-D Lite is available at a considerable discount during the Kickstarter campaign.

Vizy “AI Camera” Wants To Make Machine Vision Less Complex

Vizy, a new machine vision camera from Charmed Labs, has blown through their crowdfunding goal on the promise of making machine vision projects both easier and simpler to deploy. The camera, which starts around $250, integrates a Raspberry Pi 4 with built-in power and shutdown management, and comes with a variety of pre-installed applications so one can dive right in.

The Sony IMX477 camera sensor is the same one found in the Raspberry Pi high quality camera, and supports capture rates of up to 300 frames per second (under the right conditions, anyway.) Unlike the usual situation faced by most people when a Raspberry Pi is involved, there’s no need to worry about adding a real-time clock, enclosure, or ensuring shutdowns happen properly; it’s all taken care of.

‘Birdfeeder’ application can automatically identify and upload images of visitors.

Charmed Labs are the same folks behind the Pixy and Pixy 2 cameras, and Vizy goes further in the sense that everything required for a machine vision project has been put onboard and made easy to use and deploy, even the vision processing functions work locally and have no need for a wireless data connection (though one is needed for things like automatic uploading or sharing.) For outdoor or remote applications, there’s a weatherproof enclosure option, and wireless connectivity in areas with no WiFi can be obtained by plugging in a USB cellular modem.

A few of the more hacker-friendly hardware features are things like a high-current I/O header and support for both C/CS and M12 lenses for maximum flexibility. The IR filter can also be enabled or disabled via software, so no more swapping camera modules for ones with the IR filter removed. On the software side, applications are all written in Python and use open software like Tensorflow and OpenCV for processing.

The feature list looks good, but Vizy also seems to have a clear focus. It looks best aimed at enabling projects with the following structure:

Detect Things (people, animals, cars, text, insects, and more) and/or Measure Things (size, speed, duration, color, count, angle, brightness, etc.)

Perform an Action (for example, push a notification or enable a high-current I/O) and/or Record (save images, video, or other data locally or remotely.)

The Motionscope application tracking balls on a pool table. (Click to enlarge)

A good example of this structure is the Birdfeeder application which comes pre-installed. With the camera pointed toward a birdfeeder, animals coming for a snack are detected. If the visitor is a bird, Vizy identifies the species and uploads an image. If the animal is not a bird (for example, a squirrel) then Vizy can detect that as well and, using the I/O header, could briefly turn on a sprinkler to repel the hungry party-crasher. A sample Birdfeeder photo stream is here on Google Photos.

Motionscope is a more unusual but very interesting-looking application, and its purpose is to capture moving objects and measure the position, velocity, and acceleration of each. A picture does a far better job of explaining what Motionscope does, so here is a screenshot of the results of watching some billiard balls and showing what it can do.