A wide range of machine
vision technologies were on display on the show floor.
Illumination options, which are so critical for establishing the
necessary image contrast, included backlights, coaxial sources, diffuse
panels and domes, LED Arrays, bright and dark field ring lights, and
laser stripes/patterns. Also represented were numerous sources for
filters and lenses, both conventional and telecentric.
There were machine
vision cameras, cables, and frame grabbers with a wide range of
resolutions and interface standards, including USB 2.0, (Firewire) 1394
a/b, GigE Vision, and Camera Link.
It was also clear that smart cameras with
integrated computers are continuing to increase in popularity. They have
the advantage that they can be installed stand-alone into industrial
environments and directly generate pass/fail signals or measurements without the
requirement for supporting computers.
COGNEX was showing off a number of their
products, including the new Insight 5600, which incorporates a very fast
(1 GHz) TI DSP processor.
Sony was demonstrating
their smart cameras, which include an x86 compatible 400 MHz Geode GX533
processor, 256 MB RAM, and 1 MB Flash that can run Windows XP Embedded or Linux.
x86 smart cameras have the advantage that you can develop and test the software
on a conventional PC, and then download and run it on the camera.
manufacturers of laser scanners (LIDAR) were present on the show floor.
which were so prevalent for vehicles in the DARPA Grand Challenge races,
were on display, as well as a wide range of other SICK products for
distance measurement and safety in industrial setting. The SICK
scanners were used to generate radial range information within a
horizontal planar region in front of vehicles, and accomplished this by
directing a single laser beam off of a rotating mirror. It was
only appropriate that SICK arranged an after-show reception on the top
floor restaurant of a nearby hotel, which was itself rotating at
(thankfully) a much slower RPM!
Velodyne, (Digital Auto Drive or
Team DAD: Are we there yet? in the 2004 and 2005 Grand Challenge) was
showing off their rugged
High Definition LIDAR system for autonomous
vehicles. This sensor has recently become a regular sight on the roof of
many of the teams in the 2007 Urban Challenge. It rotates a vertical array
of 64 laser beams in a complete 360 degree sweep around the vehicle at 900+ RPM.
From time of flight measurements (2 inch range accuracy), it is able to
construct dense point clouds of surrounding objects. At the show I
could clearly distinguish the motion of visitors as they walked across the show
floor, as well as stationary tables, partitions, and walls. They were also able
to easily detect the most distant objects within the room, which were 60 meters
What I find most ingenious about the
HDL-64E design is that they have incorporated ALL of the sensor and
interface electronics, including the Ethernet components, into the rotating
head. The only (rotating) external connections that they require are
power, ground, and Ethernet.
At the show I
happened to notice two vision companies from Vancouver, BC:
Point Grey Research
manufactures a wide range of 1394a/b cameras, 2 and 3 camera stereo
arrays, and spherical vision systems.
supplies vision software. Their eVf package has been adopted by
ABB robotics and is able to determine the 3D coordinates of known
objects from a single 2D camera image. They also supply Volts-IQ,
a basic vision SDK for the Microsoft Robotics Studio.