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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.

Who doesn’t love a good robot? If you don’t — how dare you! — then this charming little scamp might just bring the hint of a smile to your face.

SDDSbot — built out of an old Sony Dynamic Digital Sound system’s reel cover — can’t do much other than turn left, right, or walk forwards on four D/C motor-controlled legs, but it does so using the power of a Pixy camera and an Arduino. The Pixy reads colour combinations that denote stop and go commands from sheets of paper, attempting to keep it in the center of its field of view as it toddles along. Once the robot gets close enough to the ‘go’ colour code, the paper’s  orientation directs the robot to steer itself left or right — the goal being the capacity to navigate a maze. While not quite there yet, it’s certainly a handful as it is.

With the care of a maker, [Arno Munukka] takes us under the hood of his robot to show how he’s made clever use of the small space. He designed a duo of custom PCBs for the motors and stuck them near the robot’s top — you can see the resistors used to time the steps poking through the robot’s case, adding a functional cosmetic effect. The Arduino brain is stuck to the rear, the Pixy to the front, and the power boards are snug near the base. Three USB ports pepper the robot’s posterior — a charging port, one for programming the Arduino, and a third to access the Pixy camera.

What do you think — had a change of heart regarding our future overl– uh, silicon-based friends? Yes? Well here’s a beginner bot to will get you started.

Filed under: Android Hacks, Arduino Hacks, robots hacks

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