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 a 320×240 resolution and the option of a built-in neural network coprocessor for edge AI work.
"MetaSense [cameras] use ToF (Time of Flight) technology to measure the 3D [depth] information," Sipeed's Wu Caesar explains of his company's latest product launch, brought to our attention by CNX Software. "[They are] the easy and low-cost way to sense the real 3D world, from low-end MCU [Microcontroller Unit] to complex ROS [Robot Operating System] robots."
The company has announced three models in the new range, both using active time-of-flight depth sensing. The base model, aimed at 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 70° horizontal and 60° vertical field of vision and a 0.2 to 2.5m (around 0.67' to 8.2') measurement range at 20 frames per second.
For those who need something a little more standalone, the A010 proper adds in a 1.14" color LCD panel driven by the module's on-board Boufallo BL702 144MHz RISC-V microcontroller. In either case, there's a USB Type-C port for power and data, the latter provided as an AT-style command and control system exposed over a UART bus.
If you need a little more, the A075V offers a 320×240 measurement grid at 0.2 to 2m (around 0.67' to 6.6') with a 55° horizontal and 72° field-of-view at 30 frames per second, while a secondary visible-light camera captures color imagery at 800×600 with a matching frame rate. There's a processor on-board, but this one's a step above the A010 family: a quad-core Arm Cortex-A7 running at 1.5GHz with 128MB of RAM, 128MB of flash storage, and a neural network coprocessor offering a claimed 0.4 trillion operations per second (TOPS) compute.
There's a sign Sipeed may have struggled to pack the hardware into such a compact design, however: the bundled case includes a cooling fan, while a USB Type-C connector adds support for interfacing with an in-browser app hosted on the camera itself for depth, infrared, visible-light, and point-cloud access. Sipeed is also sharing a Python software development kit (SDK) for the camera and promises full support for ROS and ROS 2.
It's the pricing that makes Sipeed's take on ToF depth-sensing a tempting proposition, though. The company is charging just $19 for the MetaSense A010 Lite, $25 for the A010 proper, $75 reward for the A075V, and $94 for a bundle, which includes the A010 and A075V — all at a claimed 20 per cent discount from the expected retail price post-crowdfunding.
The MetaSense crowdfunding campaign is now live on Indiegogo, having already reached its modest funding goal, with all hardware scheduled to ship in October or November 2022.