Better eyes for flying robots

March 28, 2013

A flying quadrotor robot can recognize faces thanks to a low-power vision chip (credit: Junyoung Park)

In February, at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, two teams presented new work aimed at building better-performing and lower-power vision systems that would help aerial robots navigate and aid them in identifying objects, IEEE Spectrum reports:

  • Drastically lower the power requirement of the feature extractor. That system uses an algorithm to draw out potentially important features like circles and squares from an overall image.
  • Pare down a traditional feature-extraction algorithm, re-engineering it to work well on a specialized image-processing accelerator and optimizing factors like the number of times a portion of an image is accessed for analysis. 
  • Hardware tricks to cut down on the power usage, such as optimizing shift  registers that act as buffers for data that’s in process. 
  • A system-on-chip with 21 image-processing cores. The chip, which has been demonstrated on a toy car and on a four-propeller flying robot called a quadrotor, is capable of distinguishing faces and differentiating between objects and pictures of objects.