The Imaging Source blog

AI Labs Pick & Load

Published on June 13, 2019

AI Labs, a subsidiary of The Imaging Source dedicated to automation intelligence and artificial intelligence, has just released its first product, Pick & Load, to the public.

Pick & Load is an affordable and efficient solution for the automation of machine loading and unloading tasks. Even small and medium sized enterprises can now automate their CNC loading and unloading tasks. A compact 3D sensor with active illumination is integrated with an embedded system and smart software to deliver a cost-effective solution with low power dissipation and a compact form factor. With a minimum amount of time and effort, Pick & Load can be configured to load and unload unpalletized parts from tables, palettes or drawers.

MIPI/CSI-2 Modules: up to 15 m with FPD-Link III

Published on June 3, 2019

The MIPI/CSI-2 module including serializer is connected to the embedded system (here: NVIDIA Jetson) via FPD-Link III with up to 15 m cable length.

Those people looking for the latest trends in embedded vision at this year's Embedded World in Nuremberg could not overlook the presence of MIPI/CSI-2. Behind the abbreviation MIPI/CSI-2 is the Camera Serial Interface 2 (CSI-2), specified by the Mobile Industry Processor Interface Alliance. This alliance, which consists of over 250 companies worldwide, specifies interfaces for mobile devices which includes not only camera interfaces such as CSI-2 but also, for example, interfaces for displays (Display Serial Interface 2, DSI-2) or audio devices (SoundWire, SLIMbus). MIPI Alliance's focus is the interface standardization of mobile end devices, enabling various interfaces to operate in the same physical layer. In the meantime, MIPI/CSI-2 has firmly established itself in industry and the embedded systems used there. The reasons for this are diverse: For one, SoCs (Sytem on a Chip) originating from the smartphone segment, became available as industrial variants, offering the CSI-2 interface by default; and for another, MIPI interface components are very widespread, well-tested, inexpensive and energy-efficient.

MIPI for Vision

Today's SoCs with MIPI/CSI-2 inputs generally offer hardware-accelerated image pre-processing operations via an Image Signal Processor (ISP). The ISP takes over operations such as de-mosaicing or color correction and, on some platforms, even demanding tasks such as H.264/H.265 coding or distortion correction. The ISPs usually only process data that is delivered via the MIPI/CSI-2 inputs. This excludes, therefore, the processing of data from GigE-Vision or USB3-Vision devices via ISP. Optimal use of the SoC's hardware resources (including ISP), however, requires the MIPI/CSI-2 interface. The SoC performs almost all image pre-processing tasks (i.e. operations that were often calculated directly in the camera in the case of industrial cameras) allowing for the use of compact and cost-effective camera designs. Another driver for MIPI/CSI-2 is currently the automotive industry's use of intelligent driver assistance systems. Today, hardly a vehicle rolls off the assembly line without camera modules or displays. In addition to digital rear-view mirrors, surround view, distance control or collision avoidance, MIPI Alliance protocols are also used for such components as infotainment systems.

15 m Cable Thanks to FPD-Link III

Especially in the automotive sector, however, one is quickly confronted with the problem that standard ribbon cables, such as those used in smartphones between SoC and camera module, rarely allow cable lengths beyond 30 cm. Camera modules in an automotive surround-view application, for example, require cable lengths of several meters. The same often applies to industrial applications where camera modules are being installed into systems. The Flat Panel Display Link III (FPD-Link III) interface from Texas Instruments provides a solution. Designed for the transmission of high-resolution video data for automotive applications (in addition to pure data transmission), the interface offers bidirectional channels for control commands (e.g. for configuring a camera module via I2C or feedback from a touch display), as well as the option of power supply via a single coaxial cable. Such cables are thin, flexible and inexpensive - features that play a decisive role in price-sensitive market segments like the automotive industry. Two additional components are used to transmit the MIPI/CSI-2 signals via FPD-Link III: a serializer that translates from MIPI/CSI-2 to FPD-Link III and a deserializer that translates from FPD-Link III back to MIPI/CSI-2 (Ser-Des). While the serializer is placed directly on the camera module, the deserializer is located near the MIPI/CSI-2 input of the processing SoC. The FPD-Link III path is completely transparent for the user. The Imaging Source recognizes the need for longer transmission systems and now offers, together with its MIPI/CSI-2 modules, FPD-Link III bridges for common embedded systems such as NVIDIA Jetson.

The above article, written by Dr. Oliver Fleischmann (Project Manager at The Imaging Source), was published in the April 2019 edition (02 2019) of the German-language industry journal inVISION under the title, "Einfach länger: MIPI/CSI-2 Module bis 15m Kabellänge mit FPD-Link III". Translated into the English by Amy Groth.

Pushing OCR Performance to New Levels with MVTec HALCON: Testing OCR Viability

Published on May 14, 2019

This post, Testing OCR Viability is the first in a series of 8 posts from Pushing OCR Performance to New Levels with MVTec HALCON.

Optical character recognition (OCR) is one of the standard tasks in machine vision and image processing. Many different applications (e.g. automatic object recognition, quality control, packaging) rely on the power of OCR to read characters or symbols during processing. HALCON uses a classification-based system for OCR which requires the segmentation of characters from their background. After segmentation, the characters are read using a pre-trained classifier. HALCON's integrated development environment, HDevelop, offers wide-ranging OCR functionality from the easy-to-use assistant to the training of custom classifiers for specific fonts.

In this series, we would like to give a short overview of the different approaches possible when using optical character recognition in HDevelop. In this first post, we will begin by taking a look at the general settings of the OCR assistant.

Let's jump right in and use OCR to read the best-by dates from a butter wrapper (below, fig. 1). If you want to code along, you can find the original image in the download section at the bottom of this page.

<b>Fig. 1:</b> <i>Image of dot-matrix characters in best-by date.</i>

Testing the OCR Viability for the Application

To quickly test the viability of OCR for the application at hand, HDevelop's OCR assistant provides a good starting point. First, load a sample image. Then, draw a bounding box to create a region of interest and define the expected text to be read in this region by entering it into the third field (see fig. 3). After clicking on Apply Quick Setup, the assistant automatically tries to determine suitable parameters for segmentation and classification of the characters; the resulting regions and classes will be directly displayed in the image. If the assistant fails to find suitable parameters using quick setup, there are ways to fine-tune the parameters so that functional segmentation and classification can be achieved. Quick Setup tries to find good starting parameters and will not perform a long optimization process for finding them. Fig. 2 (below, right) shows the region of interest on the packaging and Fig. 3 the corresponding setup in the OCR assistant. Fig. 4 shows the results of the quick setup: segmentation and classification of characters with estimated parameters.

<b>Fig. 2 (top, right):</b> <i>Region of interest for OCR on butter packaging.</i> <b>Fig. 3 (left):</b> <i>OCR assistant quick setup for butter wrapper.</i> <b>Fig. 4 (bottom, right):</b> <i>Results of quick setup.</i>

In the next post, we will look at the parameters found in the OCR assistant's Segmentation tab.

Please click here to download image.

MVTec Innovation Day: May 14, 2019

Published on April 24, 2019

MVTec Innovation Day: May 14, 2019

Targeted to developers, programmers and technology decision-makers, MVTec's second Innovation Day will take place on May 14 in Munich, Germany. During the one-day event, live presentations and demonstrations will highlight MVTec products, current trends and application examples in these areas:

  • Deep learning
  • Process integration
  • Usability for programmers
  • 3D-Vision
  • Behind the scenes at MVTec

The event will be held in German only. The seminar's €79 fee includes snacks and a lunch buffet. Please register no later than Friday, May 3 and visit MVTec for complete information.

Korea Vision Show 2019

Published on April 23, 2019

Under the umbrella of the co-located shows, Smart Factory + Automation World, the 7th Korea Vision Show provided visitors with the latest machine vision solutions for industrial and automation applications. The Imaging Source and reseller VIEWRUN Co. Ltd. attended the show from March 27 - 29, 2019. In addition to a matrix camera display featuring the newest USB 3.1 (gen. 1) and GigE cameras, the IC 3D stereo camera system and its flexible approach to 3D imaging also drove visitor traffic to the booth. A linear motion stage equipped with the latest 20x optical zoom camera (DFK 39GX265-Z20) demonstrated the benefits of The Imaging Source's zoom camera solutions. Available as color and monochrome variants, the new zoom cameras feature Sony's IMX265 sensors as well as autofocus, autoiris and a mechanical IR cut filter switch.

The Imaging Source and VIEWRUN at the 2019 Korea Vision Show.

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About The Imaging Source

Established in 1990, The Imaging Source is one of the leading manufacturers of industrial cameras, frame grabbers and video converters for production automation, quality assurance, logistics, medicine, science and security.

Our comprehensive range of cameras with USB 3.1, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, GigE interfaces and other innovative machine vision products are renowned for their high quality and ability to meet the performance requirements of demanding applications.

Automated Imaging Association ISO 9001:2015 certified

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