Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What is unique about the CMUcam1?

Traditionally fast computers are needed to capture and process camera images. It is also necessary to write the software to perform this processing. Because of this it is difficult to use vision as a sensor in simple systems.

The CMUcam1 vision system uses a fast low cost microcontroller to handle all of the high speed processing of the camera data and contains software to perform simple vision tasks. Because the user can choose to output only low bandwidth high level information from the vision system, like the red object is at position X-Y, it is possible for a simple processor like a PIC microcontroller to read this data and direct a small robot in tasks like chasing a colored ball. The CMUcam1 vision system makes it possible to ignore the complexity of camera interfacing and use vision just like any other sensor (i.e. sonar) often used in robotic systems.

What is the CMUcam1's frame rate?

The fastest frame rate is 16.7 frames per second. This means CMUcam1 can tell you the position of an object about 17 times per second. Using the serial software protocol you can slow this down if desired.

What baud rates does the CMUcam1 support?

As of the latest version of the firmware (v1.12) the CMUcam1 can communicate at baud rates of 9600, 19200, 38400 or 115200. The baud rate is selected via jumper settings on the board.

How do I upgrade my CMUcam1 firmware?

If you are currently using firmware v1.11 there is no reason to upgrade unless you need support for the lower baud rates. Version 1.11 supports 38400 and 115200 baud. Version 1.12 supports those baud rates and adds support for 9600 and 19200 baud. To upgrade your firmware you will need to reprogram the flash memory in your processor chip. If you have a programmer you can download the current version from our downloads page and re-flash the processor yourself.

Does the CMUcam1 work outside?

The CMUcam1 works outside but not in direct sunshine. The CMOS camera we are using does not have a high-quality IR filter, and so sunlight saturates the red pixels and the image becomes, essentially, monochrome in direct sunlight. It is possible to add an external filter to improve outdoor operation. We have a short write up that shows you how illumination conditions affect the CMUcam1 that you can download here.

Can I write custom code for the CMUcam1?

Certainly. To do this, ask us for the firmware source code, order yourself a C programming environment for the Ubicom chip and go for it. When we send you the firmware source code we will also send you a summary of how the code is structured and information about the programming environment we use.

How much power does the CMUcam1 consume?

The complete system consumes about 200 milliamperes.

What is the CMUcam1's field of view?

This depends on the lens that you fit to the CMOS camera. If you order the CMOS camera as it is sold standard, you will end up with about a 25 degree field of view, which is relatively narrow. You can custom-order wider angle lenses when you order your CMOS camera, however.

What processor does the CMUcam1 use?

Our image processing code resides on a microcontroller chip from Ubicom running at 75 MHz, the SX28AC. This chip reads all the pixels from the CMOS camera via a parallel interface and does all the processing in real time. It then communicates the results to your microcontroller or computer via a serial port interface.

What CMOS camera does the CMUcam1 use?

We use a CMOS camera which utilizes the OmniVision OV6620 CMOS camera on a chip. We use a model number C3088 CMOS camera board on which is mounted the sensor, a connector and a lens.

Does the CMUcam1 work with other CMOS cameras?

No. Currently the hardware and software system have been designed to work specifically with the OmniVision OV6620 CMOS camera. The system would need to be completely redesigned to work with another camera.

Is there some place I can find answers to additional questions I have?

Yes. We have some info about more technical questions on this page.

Where can I find out more about computer vision in general?

The CMUcam1 performs the simple computer vision task it was designed to perform in a small, inexpensive package. However, the general computer vision problem of trying to recognize arbitrary objects under arbitrary conditions is still a very active research topic and very far from being anywhere near a solved problem.

If you want to learn more about computer vision, you might want to try these links:

Technical Questions

What is the exact sequence of steps performed on power up by demo mode?

Here is the exact sequence that demo mode performs on power up:

  1. Reset the camera.
  2. Wait 5 seconds for the camera parameters auto adjustment to stabilize.
  3. Send the camera register string: "CR 18 32 19 32" which selects YCrCb mode and turns off auto gain.
  4. Execute the "TW" command.

After which, the camera will begin to drive a servo towards the middle mass of the color detected by the "TW" command.

What is the exact sequence of steps performed by the "TW" command?

Here is the exact sequence that the "TW" command performs:

  1. Shrink the window to 1/4 the size (in each dimension) of the current window to a new window centered at the current window center.
  2. Call get mean.
  3. Restore the window to the full image size.
  4. Set the max and min value for each color channel to be the mean for that channel +/- 30.

After which, the camera will begin to stream Type C, M, or N packets.

Under what conditions does the tracking LED light up when auto mode is enabled?

The LED will light when the returned pixel_count >= 2. The returned pixel_count = (actual_pixel_count + 4) / 8.

If the CMOS camera has a resolution of 352 x 288 pixels, why is the CMUcam1 resolution only 80 x 143?

The issue here is how color digital cameras work. In all digital color cameras (even the very expensive ones - except for some based on some very advanced technology) you only get one color channel measurement per pixel location, this is called mosaic filtering. Here is a nice diagram which helps explain this:

(Diagram courtesy of Foveon, Inc.)

So what you can see is that pixels can be thought of being arranged in groups of fours, where there are two G measurements and one R and one B measurement per group. If you discard one of the G measurements (which we do) you see that the real resolution of a 352x288 camera is closer to 176x144. We run the camera in half resolution mode which skips over every other 2x2 block horizontally which gives you 88x144. Because of memory limitations in the processor we discard 8 columns horizontally and one row vertically, that contains a test pattern, which gives you 80x143 as the final resolution.

Just FYI standard digital cameras use complex interpolation techniques to try to fill in the missing color values at each pixel and give you something a little closer to the full resolution of the sensor.

How can I focus the CMUcam1 accurately?

Of course, the best way to proceed with focusing is to take frame dumps using the GUI. You may not have a computer handy, or you may be using a BotBall CMUcam1, which doesn't have sufficient resolution at its hard-wired 9600 baud rate for this to work well.

In that case, there are two alternatives. First, you can try counting threads. The lens is not screwed fully in at peak focus. Rather, there is about a 1 millimeter gap of thread showing. In terms of number of threads, that is about 2 threads showing in the gap between the lens and the lens mount.

The second alternative relies on the idea that when an image is sharp, the darks are darkest and the brights are brightest. In other words, when the contrast is greatest. When the image becomes defocussed, then the extrema fade away to a more uniform distribution of intensities. So, if you fire up streaming mode using, and then call GM (Get Mean), you can focus in real time. Look at the red deviation. As you focus sharply on a high-contrast object (such as a piece of paper with lots of writing on it) at the desired distance, there will be a noticeable peak in red deviation when most sharply focused. Note that this approach to focusing requires you to have the camera and the target quite firmly planted as you turn the lens.

mosaic.png - Mosaic (26.7 kB) Kwabena Agyeman, 02/13/2012 12:24 am

lighting.pdf - Lighting (116.7 kB) Kwabena Agyeman, 02/14/2012 10:47 am