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Smart videocam boasts Linux development framework

Apr 29, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 51 views

Supercomputing Systems (SCS) is shipping a $300 programmable video camera with open source hardware and software. The LeanXcam is based on a 500MHz Analog Devices Blackfin processor, captures 752 x 480, 60fps video, and runs a uClinux-based OSCar (Open-Source Camera) Software Framework, supporting machine-vision application… development.

(Click for larger view of the LeanXcam system board and fully encased camera)

The LeanXcam is aimed at projects that require large numbers of intelligent cameras for machine vision, primarily in mechanical engineering or appliance production, says Switzerland-based SCS. Developed by the company's SCS-Vision group, the camera is built around a BF537 Blackfin DSP (digital signal processor) from Analog Devices Inc. (ADI), clocked at 500MHz. The widely deployed Blackfin is a 16/32-bit embedded processor that blends microcontroller (MCU) and DSP capabilities. Typical applications include video capture, image analysis/computer vision, robotics, software-defined radio, audio processing, video compression/decompression, digital cameras, and webcams.

LeanXcam, with or without chassis
(Click to enlarge)

The LeanXcam ships with 64MB SDRAM and 8MB of flash memory, and offers Ethernet, Serial, I2C, and variable GPIO connectivity. The global shutter camera sports a 1.3-inch Micron sensor that provides 752 x 480 resolution even at 60fps, says SCS.

LeanXcam board block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the LeanXcam include:

  • Processor — ADI Blackfin ADSP-BF537 @ 500MHz
  • Memory — 64MB SDRAM
  • Flash — 8MB (2 x 4MB)
  • Camera:
    • Sensor — CMOS 1/3-inch Micron
    • Resolution — WVGA (752 x 480); 10 bits per pixel
    • Frame rate — 60fps (at full resolution)
    • Shutter — Global shutter
    • Lens — M12 Micro Mount, standard f=3.6mm
  • Networking — 10/100Mbps Ethernet
  • Serial — 1 x RS232 with 3-pin header
  • I2C — 1 x I2C with 3-pin header
  • Other I/O:
    • Trigger or GPIO input, optoisolated, up to 24V
    • GPIO input, optoisolated, up to 24V
    • Trigger for external Flash or GPIO output, up to 24V
    • GPIO output, optoisolated, up to 24V
  • Dimensions — 3.2 x 2.9 x 1.2 inches (81 x 74 x 30mm)
  • Power — 5V; <500 mA
  • Operating system — uClinux with OSCar image processing framework

LeanXcam board

OSCar: an open source machine vision framework

Schematics, layout, and BOM for the LeanXcam are freely available, and source code for the Blackfin uClinux distribution, including U-Boot, is freely available under GPL license from ADI. The camera is supported by an SCS-sponsored open source community that develops the LGPL V2-licensed open source OSCar Software Framework.

OSCar-based LeanXcam brightness control application
(Click to enlarge)

OSCar abstracts the hardware of the LeanXcam, and provides a platform for developing applications for the camera, says SCS. Based on uClinux, OSCar runs on “a fully constituted Linux virtual machine,” says the company. The framework is organized into loadable modules, including one to configure and capture images with the on-board CMOS sensor, and a module that communicates with GPIO-connected I/O. There are also hardware independent modules for accessing the image processing library or loading and storing images from the filesystem.

The framework is compiled into static libraries that are linked with the application during compile-time, so only the object files of the modules that are actually used are linked into the executable. This reduces the software footprint and prevents unnecessary overhead of unused functions, says SCS.

LeanXcam image storage application
(Click to enlarge)

A DVD is offered with the LeanXcam that provides the OSCar framework and a library of OSCar software, also available under LGPL. The library is said to be continually expanded with community contributions.

The community site offers forums, tutorials, and templates for OSCar. Templates are said to include a web application and a GUI, from which live images can be sent to a PC, and then displayed and stored. Customers can also choose to contract SCS to develop OSCar-based software or customize the LeanXcam itself, says the company. Design services are said to include algorithm and software development, as well as hardware adaptions.


The LeanXCam is available for $270 US at 1,000-unit volumes, $290 per 100 units, $320 at ten units, and $340 individually, says SuperComputing Systems. The LeanXCam is also available in an OEM module (board only) package ranging from $210 to $270 in similar volume configurations. More information on the LeanXcam may be found here, and the OSCar community project page may be found here.

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