(Vizy got its start on Kickstarter!)
So what is an AI Camera
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?
Vizy’s operation can be summarized with this flowchart:
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 supports 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 network adapter
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.
Vizy ships with several ready-to-run applications.
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.
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!
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!
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 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.
Pet Companion is offered as a tutorial to help you learn how to create your own Vizy applications. 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?)
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 accessible from anywhere on the Internet, you’ll know that it’s typically not very easy. Vizy’s software makes it really easy — it creates a public URL that you can share with friends, family and colleagues. Simple! You can then access your Vizy from practically anywhere with practically any device as shown 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.
We offer several examples 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, NumPy, OpenCV, and other libraries which are installed and ready for use. We 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.
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.
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.
All applications, libraries, and operating system are ready to use and installed on a 32 gigabyte Ultra MicroSDXC SD card, included with your Vizy.
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.
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
Vizy has a real-time clock with battery backup so it will always know the time/date and doesn’t need to rely on power or a network connection for accurately keeping time.
12 megapixel camera
Vizy uses the same Sony image sensor (IMX477) as the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera, so it works with existing drivers and software. We are developing additional video modes and software drivers that allow Vizy’s applications to grab high-quality video at over 300 frames per second.
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?
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.
Vizy has a universal tripod mount to make mounting simple. Below is Vizy looking handsome on a tripod with the optional 8-50mm zoom lens.
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.
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 network adapter
The optional cellular network adapter gives Vizy network connectivity when/where WiFi or Ethernet isn’t available. It supports 4G LTE bands B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B7/B8/B20/B38/B39/B40/B41. This includes bands used in US, Europe and Asia. It plugs into one of Vizy’s four USB ports either directly or via the supplied “shorty” extension cable.
Included with the cellular network adapter is a SIM for a pay-as-you-go cellular provider that offers low-cost data. (The included SIM card is for use in the United States. 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, which is why 10% of proceeds from Vizy and its accessories are donated to educational programs — programs like UTeach Maker. Thanks so much for helping!