With robotics parts now becoming cheaper and more accessible to the average Arduino user, the need for powerful yet user-friendly components is fast increasing. With a lot of Arduino users being relatively new to electronics and robotics, the high-end sensors needed to make your project come alive are simply too damn expensive and complicated to play around with (unless you are a robotics guru who knows the components will be well used). Pixy might just be the answer to that problem.
Pixy is a “fast vision sensor you can quickly “teach” to find objects” that can connect to your Arduino, and other microcontrollers. Pixy combines a dedicated processer along with the sensor, so that all the low-level processing can be done directly from the board, leaving you more space and CPU cycles on your Arduino to do more with the data.
The sensor data from the Pixy’s camera is processed on board, and concise and useful information is sent back to the Arduino (for example, Blue ball detected at x=33, y=65). Even more spectacular is that it does this 50 times a second.
The information is sent via a choice of communication interfaces: UART serial, SPI, I2C, digital out and analog out. With this sheer flexibility, it’s pretty much certain that this will fit in your project without the need for the larger amount of pins of the Due or Mega. You can also hook up multiple Pixys to get 360˚ sensing capabilities.
What Makes Pixy Stand Out?
The most interesting part of Pixy is that it can sense objects. Using some hue-based colour filtering wizardry, the Pixy can calculate up to 7 different colour signatures (7 different coloured objects). If 7 is too low a number, you can use colour codes, which is basically using 2 colours side by side to create a new ‘object’. This means that Pixy can detect hundreds of objects at a time.
Charmed Labs have really gone to town with the ease of use of the Pixy. You can ‘teach’ the Pixy new objects simply by holding the object in front of it and pressing a button. You can then use the including PixyMon software to see what Pixy is seeing. This looks extremely similar to the million dollar ASIMO robot (you can see it in action with James May here on YouTube).
As a little extra for the more adventurous hackers, you can edit, update or even replace the firmware on the Pixy. This opens up the door to extremely advanced uses, and we can see a whole community starting up offering firmware for complex uses such as facial recognition (it also looks like Charmed Labs will be adding this feature soon).
Shut Up and Take My Money!
The Pixy looks like it could be the be-all and end-all of robotics visual sensors. The sheer power, flexibility and ease of use of Pixy could kick-start a whole new generation of robotics. Pixy is a Kickstarter campaign and it’s already smashed the target 5 times over! Head over to the Kickstarter page now; you can get more information and still donate, and receive a Pixy for the bargain price of $59 with delivery expected in November.