Digital video has become commonplace in a wide variety of embedded devices and promises to be the cornerstone for a new generation of applications based on image analysis. Designers are using electronic images of people, places, and things to extract information for applications that bridge the physical and virtual worlds. Manufacturing, biometrics, surveillance, quality control, security, medical, and commerce are just a few of the market areas that incorporate video processing algorithms to analyze real-time images. For example, in an earlier Roving Reporter post, I covered the Intel Audience Impression Metric Suite for digital signage which provides video and face detection algorithms that can dynamically modify content depending on the viewer’s demographics. Similarly, industrial production line inspection stations now include multichannel, high-speed video analysis equipment to record and verify product configuration and accurate alignment.
As these video applications grow in complexity, designers are turning to dual cameras to add another dimension or to increase the precision. Two image sensors are typical for applications such as 3D stereoscopic video, robotics, black box car driver recorder designs, accurate 3D analytics for security/surveillance and many other applications. Although today’s image signal processors are capable of processing the data that two image sensors output, they do not often have the port configurations to support multiple sensors. In addition, as image resolutions move above 720p, camera vendors have replaced the traditional parallel CMOS bus with unique serial buses with different widths, speeds, and protocols. With these challenges in mind, Lattice Semiconductor devised the MachXO2 family of Programmable Logic Devices (PLDs) which, along with an inexpensive frame buffer, can combine two image sensors, synchronize them, merge the data, and output a format compatible with single input port configurations (See figure 1). The MachXO2 dual sensor interface design can output two images in a top / bottom format or a left / right configuration, depending on the format the signal processing software expects. Both the Intel® Atom™ and 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processors have undergone significant updates for graphics processing and would be excellent Image Signal Processor (ISP) candidates for these new multi-sensor applications.
The new Intel® Atom™ platforms (codenamed Cedar Trail) feature an integrated Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 3600/3650 graphics engine to enhance 3D performance for media applications such as high definition 1080p video playback and streaming at a fraction of the power consumption of previous generations. Intel streaming single instruction, multiple data extensions can also be used to accelerate software processing of complex arithmetic and video decoding tasks. The platform delivers multiple digital display and output options including LVDS, HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort to support a variety of presentation formats. The dedicated media engine combined with the integrated memory controller provides enhanced performance and system responsiveness, including an improvement in graphics performance up to 2X compared to the previous generation platform. Theses signal processing and display features are well suited for multi sensor embedded market applications.
The 2nd generation Intel® Core™ architecture features an integrated graphics processor optimized for media analysis applications plus dedicated hardware for high speed video processing. The graphics processor incorporates fixed function hardware in the signal processing channel as an array of parallel execution units for rapid encoding and decoding of high definition video in order to maximize the throughput per watt and to replace programmable functions. The video processing section includes advanced logic for removing noise, sharpening, scaling, and color processing of video signals. The 2nd generation Intel® Core™ architecture also features a unified power management design where the graphics processor has a separate power plane and clocking so it can run at a different voltage than the CPU depending on the workload. The 2nd generation Intel® Core™ architecture also incorporates the Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) instruction set optimized for audio, image, and video processing. With the AVX extended performance, designers can eliminate external hardware-based digital signal processing silicon to reduce the component count and lower overall power requirements.
The integrated graphics features of both the 2nd generation Intel® Core™ architecture and the new Intel® Atom™ platforms give designers a choice in video processing capabilities combined with low power and a variable number of CPU cores to match the requirements of a variety of multiple image sensor applications. If you are starting a new dual camera image analysis project and you have questions, please share your concerns with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community. You can also keep up with technical articles and product announcements at the Embedded Computing Design archives on Image Analysis.
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