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So what is an AI Camera?

Our scientists are busy trying to answer this important question!  Like a regular camera, an AI camera captures images but unlike a regular camera, it can process and interpret the images then perform actions such as:
  • bird on bird feeder → identify bird species and post a high-quality picture to the cloud
  • squirrel on bird feeder stealing bird seed → employ squirrel-discouraging technology to remove squirrel and restore order
  • cat standing near back door → text owner that cat wants to be let outside
An AI camera can also extract data from the stream of images captured by its camera and record the data for later analysis to help answer questions such as:
  • What are the numbers of cars, bicycles and people per hour on a given thoroughfare?
  • What are the speeds of these cars, bicycles and people?
  • Are giraffes visiting the feeder that you installed in your backyard?  If so, how many? What time of day?  And how long are they staying?
Our scientists came up with this flow-chart to help summarize these ideas (scientists love flow-charts):
 

A powerful vision platform

You can think of Vizy as a powerful platform for AI, scientific and vision applications and a great way to become familiar with and learn AI and image processing.  (But you don’t need to know how to program to use Vizy.)  
 
Here is a quick rundown of Vizy’s features:
  • Raspberry Pi 4 CPU, including quad-core ARM processor, up to 8 gigabytes of RAM, WiFi, gigabit Ethernet and 4 USB ports
  • High-resolution camera with high-quality optics that can capture over 300 frames/second and support both daytime and nighttime viewing
  • Easy-to-use digital and analog I/O with high-current output for controlling motors, solenoids, relays, lighting (and even sprinkler valves!) 
  • Web-browser UI can be accessed from your computer, tablet or phone, locally or remotely.
  • Easy-to-use Python application software — run applications others have written, or customize/write your own
  • Optional accessories include  zoom lens, outdoor enclosure, lighting, telescope adapter and 4G LTE cellular modem
  • Vizy comes with deep-learning neural networks that makes detection of objects, people and/or animals straightforward.  
  • Processing is done onboard.  It doesn’t use servers for AI processing, so you don’t need a network connection or pay a monthly server fee.

Ready-to-run applications

All the applications shown in the video are installed and ready to run on your Vizy. 
 

Birdfeeder

 
The Birdfeeder application watches your bird feeder and can identify 20 common bird species.  It captures pictures of the birds and uploads them to the cloud (Google Photos) for you to view and see what birds have been visiting your bird feeder.
 
It can also identify the “party crashers” — such as squirrels, opossums and raccoons (or even unwelcome bird species.)  And if you give Vizy the ability, it will “take care of things”.  That is, Vizy can control a sprinkler valve with its high-current I/O and send the unwelcome visitors a discouraging message in the form of a harmless squirt of water.
 
 
 
And as a bonus, Vizy will record these interactions as short videos and upload those to the cloud as well — as shown in the video above.  Finally, some justice and accountability for your bird feeder!  Think of Vizy as a tool to encourage squirrels to stick to acorns and the like, so that your avian friends can enjoy the food you’ve so generously provided for them.
 
Here’s an example of a Birdfeeder photo stream — live updated by a dedicated, never-tiring Vizy camera!
 

Motionscope

 
We wrote Motionscope after asking our physics teacher friends what tools they would like to have available to teach and/or study the concepts of projectile motion — concepts such as velocity, acceleration, momentum and energy.  Motionscope uses Vizy’s camera to capture the motion of moving objects.  It can accurately measure the position, velocity and acceleration of each object in each frame.
 
 
 
 
Motionscope can also display graphs of each object’s x and y position, velocity and acceleration.  Or if you prefer, Motionscope can provide the raw motion data in spreadsheet form.  Sliders allow you to adjust the spacing of the data points and the size of the time window.
 
Motionscope is a fully-functional application that demonstrates the diverse possibilities of Vizy’s potential uses!

Telescope

The Vizy Telescope application can help explore the night sky.  It can be used with motorized telescope mounts like the Sky Watcher Virtuoso or the Celestron NexStar series.  Vizy can control these mounts directly while taking pictures and processing the images.
 
Vizy attaches to the telescopes with a standard 1.25″ barrel adapter that’s available as an accessory.  
 
Vizy can automate tasks such as finding objects (stars, planets, satellites), tracking these objects, taking multiple long exposures, stacking the images to reduce noise and uploading the pictures to the cloud.  Being able to control your telescope and see what it sees remotely is nice as well! 
 

Pet Companion

Pet Companion can detect your dog or cat, take pictures and videos of them and upload them to the cloud for you and your family/friends to enjoy.  You can connect to Pet Companion remotely to check on your pet and give them treats, for example.
 
 
 
You can easily customize Pet Companion to your pet’s needs.  (Did you know that you can make a treat dispenser out of cardboard, a jar, and a solenoid?)  The code behind Pet Companion is described in detail in a tutorial that covers how to write your own Vizy programs.

Other applications

Object detection, optical character recognition, slow-motion capture and timelapse are provided as demonstration applications that you can use as-is or as building blocks for your own applications.
 
 
 
Vizy’s applications are all written in Python and use Tensorflow, OpenCV, PyTorch, and other libraries which are installed and ready for use.  We will also offer a way to easily download and install new versions of applications as well as brand new applications written by us and Vizy’s users.
 

300+ frames per second

 
 
Vizy uses the same Sony image sensor (IMX477) as the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera, so it works with existing drivers and software.  We added additional video modes and software drivers that allow Vizy’s applications to grab high-quality video at over 300 frames per second.
 

Browser-based interface

 
 
Interact with Vizy by using a standard web-browser running on your computer or phone.  You don’t need to install special software to interact with Vizy, and Vizy works with all major operating systems.  Additionally, it’s possible to interact with Vizy remotely over the Internet.
 

Share on the Web

Vizy has built-in WiFi, and gigabit Ethernet, which means that you can easily access Vizy from within your local network, but we’ve also made it possible to access your Vizy remotely over the Internet even if it’s behind a firewall or router, which is the case 99% of the time.
 
If you’ve tried getting your device on the Internet, you’ll know that it’s typically not very easy.  Vizy’s software makes it really easy — it creates connections with public servers and provides you with a public URL that you can share with friends, family and colleagues.  Access to the servers doesn’t require sign-up or monthly fees.  Simple!  You can then access your Vizy from practically anywhere with practically any device.  See below:

Write your own applications

You don’t need to be able to program to use Vizy, but if you want to learn AI and vision programming, we designed Vizy’s software with you in mind.  Vizy’s software libraries — from deep-learning object detection code, to the code that uploads images and videos to the cloud — are easy to use and easy to integrate.  Just check out our programming tutorial to get more details.
 
We have been helping makers, developers, roboticists, hobbyists and educators bring their creations to life for years with the Pixy line of smart cameras.  We look forward to seeing what you’ll do with the advanced capabilities of Vizy, and we’ll be here to help and cheer you on!
 

Develop in Python

Python is easy to learn and easy to use, while also being productive and powerful.  It has seen its popularity grow rapidly in recent years and is the most popular language for AI and machine learning.  These are some of the reasons we chose Python for Vizy.  Tensorflow, OpenCV, PyTorch and other Python libraries are installed and ready for use as well.
 
But writing a browser-based application in Python can be challenging because you usually need to write additional code in HTML, JavaScript and CSS.  (Arrgh!)  Vizy uses a framework called Dash, which makes web-based GUI controls, data visualization and video streaming simple, and there’s no need to write any code in HTML, JavaScript or CSS.  Check out our programming tutorial to see what we mean!

Text me, email me, or upload to the cloud

Vizy patiently sits and gathers images and then interprets what it sees by using its advanced AI.  So it makes sense that Vizy wants to share the information that it has painstakingly gathered, either by uploading pictures and videos to the cloud (e.g. through Google Photos), by texting you, or by sending you an email.
 
 
 
Vizy’s software libraries make using these methods of communication easy and straightforward.

Raspberry Pi 4 inside

 
Vizy uses the Raspberry Pi 4 as its main CPU.  It offers twice the performance over its predecessor for most tasks including running deep learning algorithms.  It has a quad-core processor, up to 8 gigabytes RAM, WiFi, gigabit Ethernet and 4 USB ports.
 

Integrated cooling

 
The Raspberry Pi 4 onboard thermal management often needs to reduce the CPU frequency to prevent overheating, which also reduces the available computing power.  Vizy’s integrated cooling fan and CPU heatsink maximizes the available computing power by directly cooling the CPU.
 

Software is pre-installed and ready-to-run

All of the demos shown in this video are ready-to-run right out of the box.  All software is installed on a 32 gigabyte Ultra MicroSDXC SD card, included with your Vizy.  
 

Safe shut-down and advanced power modes

 
 
Vizy supports safe shutdown, so its Linux file system won’t be compromised.  You can also put Vizy into hibernation mode and set an alarm for it to wake up at a specified time.  Vizy’s power electronics have a dedicated processor that handles advanced power modes like hibernation and alarm wake-up.
 

Real-time clock with battery backup

We added a real-time clock with battery backup so your Vizy will always know the time/date and doesn’t need to rely on power or a network connection for accurately keeping time. 
 

High-quality replaceable optics

One of the questions we faced — should Vizy work with M12 lenses, the type commonly used in consumer applications (e.g. GoPro)?  Or should Vizy work with C/CS lenses, the type commonly used in industrial applications (e.g. CCTV and security)?  We tested literally hundreds of lenses to try to answer this question.  What we learned: both types of lenses have their merits, so why not support both?  And that’s exactly what we did.

Vizy comes with a high-resolution, wide-angle, 3.25mm M12 lens.  It’s perfect for most applications, and it doesn’t suffer from distortion like most C/CS wide-angle lenses (see picture below.)  At 87 degrees, it’s horizontal field-of-view is wider than most smartphone cameras.

We’re also offering an optional high-quality 8-50mm C/CS zoom lens for when you need a more zoomed-in perspective.  Its distortion is quite low and has excellent light gathering (F1.4), which is important for longer lenses.

Or you can provide your own lens that better meets the needs of your application.  Since Vizy supports both C/CS and M12 lenses, there are lots of lens possibilities to choose from!

Switchable IR filter for day or night use

Vizy’s camera has an electronically switchable IR-cut filter for use in daytime and nighttime.  During the daytime, the IR-cut filter provides the maximum color fidelity. During nighttime, the IR-cut filter can be switched out electronically so you can use IR lighting to illuminate what Vizy sees while also being discreet.  (Be sure to check out the outdoor enclosure below, which includes a built-in IR light.)

Easy to use digital and analog I/O with high-current output

 
 
Vizy’s I/O connector supports digital I/O, analog I/O, PWM, UART serial and high-current output (up to 1000 mA per channel).  You can drive relays, solenoids, motors, lighting and even sprinkler valves directly.  And the terminal block connector makes it easy to hook things up to Vizy.  All you need is a screwdriver, which we provide.  Just shove the wire in and tighten — no soldering or crimping necessary!
 

Tripod mount

Vizy has a universal tripod mount to make mounting simple.  Here’s Vizy looking handsome on a tripod with the optional 8-50mm zoom lens:
 

Lighting 

 
 
An optional lighting accessory is available to help illuminate what Vizy sees.  It fits snuggly in Vizy’s mounting shoe.  It has adjustable brightness, and you can turn it on and off remotely as needed.  The mounting shoe is included with Vizy and can be used with other lighting accessories if you like.
 

Outdoor enclosure

 
Some applications require that Vizy be installed outdoors.  The optional outdoor enclosure does an excellent job of keeping Vizy safe and sound inside (it’s IP66 rated), and it has integrated IR lighting for nighttime use.  It has extra space inside to accommodate longer lenses, and it works with WiFi and cellular.    
 
 

4G LTE cellular modem

 
 

The optional cellular modem gives Vizy network connectivity when/where WiFi or Ethernet isn’t available. It supports 4G LTE as well as 3G CDMA or GSM (US bands).  It plugs into one of Vizy’s four USB ports either directly or via the supplied “shorty” extension cable.

Included with the cellular modem is a SIM for a pay-as-you-go cellular provider that offers low-cost data.  (You set up the account separately, not through us.) Or if you prefer, use a different SIM and a plan of your choosing.

 

10% of proceeds donated to educational programs

Charmed Labs is here because someone took the time to teach and inspire us.  We would very much like to support our future maker/educator friends, teachers, and mentors.  If this campaign meets its financial goal and Vizy begins retail sales, we will donate 10% of proceeds from Vizy and its accessories to educational programs — programs like UTeach Maker.  (Note, due to Kickstarter rules, we won’t be able to donate any of the proceeds from this Kickstarter campaign.  But this rule doesn’t apply after the Kickstarter campaign is finished and we begin retail sales of Vizy– hopefully very soon!)  Thanks so much for helping!