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Open source machine vision board and robot run Linux and Arduino

Sep 20, 2016 — by Eric Brown 4,891 views

Hicat’s open source, “Livera” machine vision board runs Linux on an ARM9 Hi3518 camera SoC, and Arduino on an Atmel 32u4 MCU, and has an optional robot kit.

A startup called Team Hicat has gone to Kickstarter to launch a Hicat Livera machine vision development board and robot kit that runs both Linux and Arduino. The CERN-licensed design is available in early bird packages of $39 for the Livera board with built-in 720p ready camera, and $49 for a Pro version that includes a Motor Driver board. The full robot kit, which adds motors, servos, and more, goes for $69. The campaign lasts through Nov. 16, and the devices ship in December.

The Livera “aims to bring machine vision features to the Arduino community,” says Team Hicat. Although primarily aimed at DIY robotics, the Livera board on its own can also be used as a home automation controller or a standalone machine vision platform.

Hicat Livera machine vision board and robot
(click images to enlarge)

Team Hicat bills the Livera board as a combination Raspberry Pi, Arduino, webcam, router, and accelerometer, all for a much lower price. The price is certainly compelling, but the ARM9-based HiSilicon Hi3518 SoC is more comparable to the ARM11 system-on-chip processor on original Pi than those on the newer quad-core Pi models.

HiSilicon Hi3518 SoC block diagram (left), and a typical IP camera application baSed on the Hi3518
(click images to enlarge)

Team Hicat doesn’t say whether the Livera’s HiSilicon Hi3518 SoC is the professional Hi3518A model or the more likely consumer-level Hi3518C part, but either way the 440MHz SoC runs Linux and encodes multiple streams in H.264 format at 720p with its on-chip video subsystem. There’s also an image subsystem, and support for a variety of interfaces including PWM, I2C, and GPIO.


The Livera board also integrates a MediaTek MT701 WiFi chip with 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g, and an 8-bit, 16MHz Atmel ATmega32u4 for Arduino support. An InvenSense MPU-6050 6-axis gyro and accelerometer chip is also onboard.

Livera board details
(click image to enlarge)

The Livera board integrates an antenna and a Linux-driven debug port, and there are separate reset buttons for the ARM9 SoC and the Atmel MCU. A 3.3V LiPo battery draws power from a 5V micro-USB port. A variety of interface pins run along the back sides of the board offering I/O including serial, SPI, I2C, PWM, AVR, interrupt, and analog and digital interfaces. There’s also an extension shield with a microSD slot, microphone, and speaker.

Livera board pinout
(click image to enlarge)

A separate camera module includes an OmniVision OV9712 CMOS camera sensor with 140-degree viewing angle. The 1280 x 720p camera can be plugged into the board or attached via extension cable. The cable ships with the basic Livera package, along with the camera, battery, USB cable, and 4GB microSD card with preinstalled software.

The separately available motor driver board can power up to 4x channels for DC motors and 4x channels for servos. An onboard battery and a micro-USB port provide power.

Motor Driver board
(click image to enlarge)

The full robot kit provides the Livera and motor driver boards, along with a pair of reduction gear DC motors and a servo motor which is variably listed as being 3g or 5g. The kit also includes an external antenna, dual 9V batteries, a laser-cut frame, two sets of wheels and casters, a laser pointer, and a 5V “laser beam.”

Livera Robot Kit
(click image to enlarge)

The Livera board ships with libraries that provide APIs for [email protected] video streaming and photo processing, as well as OpenCV enabled color sensitivity and object tracking. The software enables image capture and storage on the included microSD card, and there are web-based and native custom apps for mobile observation and manipulation. WiFi controls, including AP and station modes, are also included.

The firmware offers NodeJS support, as well as an Arduino library with full API support within the Arduino IDE. A bridge system coordinates the serial port between the MCU and the ARM9 camera SoC. Android and iOS mobile apps for robot control are said to be coming soon. The Linux system is said to be SSH and serial port accessible.

Further information

The Hicat Livera board is available on Kickstarter starting at early bird prices ranging between $39 and $69 (see above for further pricing). The campaign lasts through Nov. 16, and the devices ship in December. More information may be found at the Hicat Livera product page and Hicat website.

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One response to “Open source machine vision board and robot run Linux and Arduino”

  1. John says:

    How can I build a machine vision robot easily and quickly? It’s better to have a tutorial and guideline for the beginner. I will back the $69 reward and try to build one for the dog watching.

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