A Raspberry Pi with a camera is nothing new. But the Pixy2 camera can interface with a variety of microcontrollers and has enough smarts to detect objects, follow lines, or even read barcodes without help from the host computer. [DroneBot Workshop] has a review of the device and he’s very enthused about the camera. You can see the video below.
When you watch the video, you might wonder how much this camera will cost. Turns out it is about $60 which isn’t cheap but for the capabilities it offers it isn’t that much, either. The camera can detect lines, intersections, and barcodes plus any objects you want to train it to recognize. The camera also sports its own light source and dual servo motor drive meant for a pan and tilt mounting arrangement.
You can connect via USB, serial, SPI, or I2C. Internally, the camera processes at 60 frames per second and it can remember seven signatures internally. There’s a PC-based configuration program that will run on Windows, Mac, or Linux. You can even use the program to spy on the camera while it is talking to another microcontroller like an Arduino.
The camera isn’t made to take sharp photos or video, but it is optimized for finding things, not for picture quality. High-quality frames take more processing power, so this is a reasonable trade. The camera does need training to find objects by color and shape. You can do the training with the PC-based software, but you can also do it with a self-contained procedure that relies on a button on the camera. The video shows both methods.
Once trained, you can even have an Arduino find objects. There’s a library that allows you to find how many items the camera currently sees and find out what the block is and its location. The identification clearly depends highly on color, so you’ll probably need to experiment if you have things that are different colors on different sides or has multiple colors.
Sure, you could use a sufficient computer with OpenCV to get some of these results, but having this all in one package and usable from just about any processor could be a real game-changer for the right kind of project. If you wanted to make a fancy line-following robot that could handle 5-way intersections and barcode commands this would be a no-brainer.
We’ve seen other smart cameras like OpenMV before. Google also has a vision processor for the Pi, too. It has a lot of capability but assumes you are connecting to a Pi.