Embedded specialist Sipeed has launched a crowdfunding campaign for a pair of depth-sensing Time-of-Flight (ToF) camera modules, the MetaSense A075V and A010 – offering up to 320×240 resolution and the option of a co-processor embedded neural network for artificial intelligence work at the edge.
“MetaSense [cameras] use ToF (Time of Flight) technology to measure 3D [depth] information,” says Sispeed’s Wu Caesar of his company’s latest product launch, brought to our attention by CNX software. “[They are] the simple and inexpensive way to sense the real 3D world, from a low-end microcontroller [Microcontroller Unit] to complex ROS [Robot Operating System] robots.”
The company has announced three models in the new range, both of which use active time-of-flight depth sensing. The base model, intended for use with microcontrollers, is the MetaSense A010 Lite. Built around an OPNOUS sensor with 940nm VCSEL laser emitter, the sensor offers a 100×100 measurement grid with a 70° horizontal and 60° vertical field of view and a measurement range of 0.2 to 2.5 m (approx. 0.67′ to 8.2′) at 20 frames per second.
For those who need something a little more standalone, the A010 proper adds a 1.14″ color LCD panel driven by the Boufallo BL702 144 MHz RISC-V microcontroller built into the module. Either way, there’s a USB Type-C port for power and data, the latter delivered as an exposed AT-style command and control system over a UART bus.
The cameras offer full depth sensing and measurement out to over six feet. (📷: Sipeed)
If you need a little more, the A075V offers a 320×240 metering grid at 0.2 to 2m (about 0.67′ to 6.6′) with a horizontal field of view of 55° and 72° at 30 frames per second, while a secondary visible-light camera captures color images at 800×600 with a matching frame rate. There’s a built-in processor, but this is a step above the A010 family: a quad-core Arm Cortex-A7 running at 1.5 GHz with 128 MB of RAM, 128 MB of flash storage and a network coprocessor neural offering 0.4 trillion claimed computational operations per second (TOPS).
There’s a sign that Sipeed may have struggled to pack the hardware into such a compact design: the bundled case includes a cooling fan, while a USB Type-C connector adds support for the interface with an in-browser application hosted on the camera itself for depth, infrared, visible light, and point cloud access. Sipeed also shares a Python software development kit (SDK) for the camera and promises full support for ROS and ROS 2.
The high-end model includes an NPU, providing the ability to run cutting-edge AI workloads without hogging host system resources. (📷: Sipeed)
It’s the price that makes Sipeed’s take on ToF depth sensing a tempting proposition, however. The company only charges $19 for the MetaSense A010 Lite, $25 for the A010 itself, $75 reward for the A075V, and $94 for a bundle including the A010 and A075V, all with a discount claimed 20% off the expected retail price. post-crowdfunding.
The MetaSense crowdfunding campaign is now live on Indiegogohaving already reached its modest fundraising goal, with all materials expected to ship in October or November 2022.