Vision Insider Blog

Google continues robotic push with purchase of UAV company

Apr 15, 2014 When it comes to the robotics industry, Google has been plenty busy making headlines over the past year or so. These headlines include the purchase of eight robotic companies, including Boston Dynamics—a company that develops mobile robots for the U.S. military, as well as news that Google would ...

An optometrist's take on smartphones for eye imaging

Mar 19, 2014

I recently came across an article describing a system developed by Stanford researchers in which a smartphone (in this case, an iPhone), was used to capture high-quality images of the front and back of the eye.

Commercial UAVs legal, but for how long?

Mar 11, 2014

A recent ruling from a federal judge indicates that there is no official legally-binding rule against the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, despite the widespread notion that flying them is, in fact, illegal.

Vision at the Sochi Olympics

Feb 14, 2014 Hockey aside (Go USA), I am just as much interested in the non-event stories on the Sochi Olympics than I am the actual competition. Olympic Village rumors, hotel horror stories, and stray dog roundups are just some of the highlights I’ve come across. Anyway, I recently found myself perusing thro...

Friendly robots

Feb 12, 2014 ERWIN (Emotional robot with intelligent network) is a robot developed by researchers from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science.The robot is being used as part of a PhD study to learn more information about the relationships between humans and "companion" robots.

This blog will self-destruct: DARPA’s vanishing electronics initiative

Feb 7, 2014

DARPA’s latest initiative involves the development and manufacturing of electronics, including those for remote sensing and communication, which will be able to self-destruct on command (Think Mission: Impossible, or even Inspector Gadget.)

Infrared imaging at the Super Bowl

Jan 29, 2014 Considering the amount of cameras that will be present at this Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks; it wasn’t too difficult to find a vision-related connection. In this case, though, the connection is a bit “out of the box,” as FOX will apparently use a thermal ima...

FLIR One enables thermal imaging on your iPhone

Jan 10, 2014 With the launch of the FLIR ONE, users can turn their iPhone into an infrared imaging camera by putting it into a specially-designed protective case and connecting the devices via USB interface. FLIR ONE can capture temperatures from 32°F to 212°F, features an operating temperature range of 32°F ...

Rapid prototyping

Jan 8, 2014 Let’s say you work at a company that develops cameras, connectors for camera cables, or even something like a handheld embedded medical imaging system. For the sake of an example, let’s say you’ve designed a camera casing on a CAD system, but need to get the complete mechanical housing off to you...

The other side of robotic surgery (and robots in general)

Dec 31, 2013 While robots and robotic systems provide novel, innovative technologies across a number of applications and industries, another side of robots—which we rarely visit—is the risk factor that they present. In this case, many adverse events involving a robotic surgery system have gone unreported thro...

Happy Holidays from Vision Systems Design!

Dec 24, 2013

With the year winding down, we wanted to take a minute here to thank you all for reading Vision Systems Design throughout the year. Whether you receive the magazine, our newsletters, or just happen to read the site from time to time, your time is appreciated.

Google and the robot revolution

Dec 18, 2013 Over the past year, Google has acquired seven robot / technology companies and startups in an effort to take on a major role in the future of robotics. Google’s most recent acquisition, however, is an interesting one, as the company has announced the acquisition of military-robot developer Boston...

Autonomous security guard robots launched

Dec 9, 2013

A company called Knightscope has developed a mobile robot known as the K5 Autonomous Data Machine as a safety and security guard for corporations, schools, neighborhoods, and so on.

Amazon unveils plans for UAV delivery service

Dec 2, 2013

Amazon’s Prime Air service would see unmanned aerial vehicles deploy packages under five pounds (2.3 kg) to customers within a 10 mile (16 km) radius of Amazon fulfillment centers.

Robotic turtle will inspect shipwrecks

Nov 27, 2013

AEuropean Union-funded research project called ARROWS (ARchaeological RObot systems for the World’s Seas) has developed an underwater robotic turtle called the U-CAT, which is designed to explore shipwrecks and capture footage which will be used to reconstruct a site.

Creating clone figurines of yourself with Kinect

Nov 19, 2013

In the latest instance of people getting creative with the Kinect, 3D scanning company Artec Group has developed a service where folks at home can create 3D scans of their body using their own Kinect and turn that into actual, physical replica figurines of themselves.

Rock paper scissors with a robot

Nov 6, 2013

The Janken robot from the University of Tokyo's Ishikawa Oku Lab features a robotic hand and a high-speed vision sensor which is able to recognize its human counterpart’s choice of rock, paper, or scissors, as their finger move into position.

Early feedback on the educational Bigshot DIY camera

Oct 30, 2013 Back in early 2010, we first reported on the Bigshot camera—a build-it-yourself digital camera designed to educate children on how cameras work, and what exactly comprises them. Then in August of this year, we followed up on it with news that the camera was finally hitting the open market. Now, w...

Raspberry Pi "warming" up

Oct 23, 2013

The latest news from Raspberry Pi is that, by removing the infrared filter, the Raspberry Pi camera board module can sense infrared signals. The new Pi NoIR (Pi, no infrared) camera board may be officially launched as soon as November.

Working toward vision for the visually impaired

Oct 18, 2013

In the October issue of Vision Systems Design, I wrote an article about how researchers all over the world are working to develop methods such as retinal implants and augmented vision systems to increase the visual acuity of blind people. Here are a few more examples of such work.

Filming a leap from the edge of space

Oct 17, 2013

In honor of the anniversary of the death-defying stunt, Red Bull has uploaded video footage captured by three small HD video cameras from the three action cameras strapped to Felix Baumgartner during his dive from the edge of space.

"Gravity" blockbuster filmed by industrial robots

Oct 11, 2013

Alfonso Cuarón and team contacted a company out of San Francisco called Bot & Dolly, which redeployed robotic arms originally designed for factory automation assembly line tasks such as automotive welding and painting in order to film the Hollywood blockbuster Gravity.

Get your eyes examined

Oct 3, 2013

Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear are using an iPhone, accompanying app, and 20D lens for retinal photography, highlighting the fact that uses for imaging options like the iPhone are expanding, and will likely continue to do so.

Preserving our past with 3D mapping

Sep 25, 2013 People outside of the machine vision industry may think of 3D imaging as a technique only used to view movies. However, it can also be used for identifying cancer, improving medical procedures, scientific research, and for helping us to remember our past by recreating cultural heritage sites.

Vision system tracks player movement, stamina

Sep 6, 2013

The NBA will install a motion tracking and player analyzing camera and software system from STATs in all of its NBA arenas. The system, which is also used in UEFA Champions League matches, can even measure a player’s level of fatigue.

Build your own supercomputer

By Andy Wilson
Many image processing tasks are computationally intensive. As such, system integrators are always on the lookout for any means that will help them to accelerate their application software.

One way to do this is to determine whether an application could be optimized -- either by hand or by using optimization tools such as Vector Fabrics' (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) Pareon -- to enable it to take advantage of the many processing cores that are in the latest microprocessors from AMD and Intel.

If an application can be considered to be easily separated into a number of parallel tasks -- such as those known in the industry as "embarrassingly parallel problems" -- then the only limitation the systems integrator has is how to source enough inexpensive processors to perform the task.

Fortunately, since the advent of the GPU, cores are plentiful. As such, many engineers are harnessing the power of games engines such as GE Force’s GTX 470 -- which sports no less than 448 CUDA cores and 1GByte of memory -- to vastly accelerate their image processing applications .

Now in a few cases where engineers really need to harness even more hardware power, they have only one alternative -- build it themselves. That, indeed, is exactly what engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory (Rome, NY, USA) have done.

Their massive supercomputer -- which was developed for the Air Force for image processing tasks -- is ranked as one of the fortieth fastest computers in the world. Yet, believe it or not, it has been constructed by wiring together no less than 1,700 off-the-shelf PlayStation 3 gaming consoles !


Now if you are anything like me, you are probably wondering how you might be able to design such a beast yourself, while doing so without shelling out an inordinate sum of money to buy so many Sony games consoles.

If you do, you might like to check out the web page of Professor Simon Cox from the University of Southampton (Southampton, UK), who, together with a team of computer scientists at the university (and his six year old son James) has built a supercomputer out of Raspberry Pi's , a rats nest of cables and an awful lot of Lego.

"As soon as we were able to source sufficient Raspberry Pi computers we wanted to see if it was possible to link them together into a supercomputer. We installed and built all of the necessary software on the Pi starting from a standard Debian Wheezy system image," says Professor Cox.

The machine, named "Iridis-Pi" after the university's Iridis supercomputer, runs off a single 13A mains socket and uses a Message Passing Interface to enable the processing nodes to communicate over Ethernet. The system has a total of 64 processors and 1Tb of memory (16GByte SD cards for each Raspberry Pi).

Now I'm not about to claim that this supercomputer is going to rank up there with the PlayStation-based system built for the US Air Force, but it certainly would be a fun project to build and experiment on. And at a price of under $4000, who wouldn't want to give it a go?

Fortunately, for those interested in doing so, the learned Professor has published a step-by-step guide so you can build your own supercomputer Raspberry Pi supercomputer without too much effort.

The Southampton team wants to see the low-cost supercomputer used to enable students to tackle complex engineering and scientific challenges. Maybe the system isn't really the most cost effective way to do that, but it certainly is inspirational.

Editor's note:  PA Consulting Group and the Raspberry Pi Foundation have teamed up to challenge schoolchildren, students and computer programmers to develop a useful application using a Raspberry Pi that will make the world a better place. I'm sure they would welcome ideas from the imaging community! Details on the competition can be found here .