A Miniature Space-Variant Active Vision System: Cortex-I
10:30 a.m., Wednesday, May 20, 1992
room 1302, Warren Weaver Hall


We have developed a prototype miniaturized active vision system whose sensor architecture is based on a logarithmically structured space-variant pixel geometry. A space-variant image's resolution changes across the image. Typically, the central part of the image has a very high resolution, and the resolution falls off gradually in the periphery. Our system integrates a miniature CCD-based camera, pan-tilt actuator, controller, general purpose processors and display. Due to the ability of space-variant sensors to cover large work-spaces, yet provide high acuity with an extremely small number of pixels, space-variant active vision system architectures provide the potential for radical reductions in system size and cost. We have realized this by creating an entire system that takes up less than a third of a cubic foot. In this thesis, we describe a prototype space-variant active vision system (Cortex-I) which performs such tasks as tracking moving objects and license plate reading, and functions as a video telephone.

We report on the design and construction of the camera (which is 8x8x8mm), its readout, and a fast mapping algorithm to convert the uniform image to a space-variant image. We introduce a new miniature pan-tilt actuator, the Spherical Pointing Motor (SPM), which is 4x5x6cm. The basic idea behind the SPM is to orient a permanent magnet to the magnetic field induced by three orthogonal coils by applying the appropriate ratio of currents to the coils. Finally, we present results of integrating the system with several applications. Potential application domains for systems of this type include vision systems for mobile robots and robot manipulators, traffic monitoring systems, security and surveillance, telerobotics, and consumer video communications.

The long-range goal of this project is to demonstrate that major new applications of robotics will become feasible when small low-cost machine vision systems can be mass-produced. This notion of `commodity robotics' is expected to parallel the impact of the personal computer, in the sense of opening up new application niches for what has until now been expensive and therefore limited technology.