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USB3 Vision computer can do assisted surgery

Apr 3, 2017 — by Eric Brown 477 views

Active Silicon’s Linux-ready, Haswell-based “USB3 Vision Processing Unit” acquires and processes image data from up to 4x USB3 Vision cameras.

Active Silicon’s USB3 Vision Processing Unit (USB3 VPU) is designed for a variety of high-end industrial and medical computer vision applications, including its primary application of computer assisted surgery. The USB3 VPU has four inputs for USB3 Vision cameras and four 3G-SDI outputs configured to output two channels of 3G-SDI video, each with a duplicate output.

USB3 VPU (left) and internal LM01 COM Express Type 6
(click images to enlarge)

The USB3 Vision standard is based on the GigE Vision standard for GbE-connected cameras, but instead uses USB 3.0-connected cameras. The cameras have a faster 350MB/s bandwidth, compared to 125MB/s for GigE cameras, although their cables only reach up to 5-10 meters compared to 100 meters for GigE. USB3 Vision cameras are much faster than USB 2.0 cameras. The standard defines a machine vision interface for integrating the cameras with compatible cables and image processing libraries. (For more information on USB3 Vision, see our coverage of NI’s USB3 Vision compatible CVS-1459RT vision computer.)

Internally, the 220 x 160 x 83mm USB3 VPU system is based on a separately available Active Silicon LM01 COM Express Type 6 module that runs Linux or Windows 7 on an Core i7-4700EQ from Intel’s fourth “Haswell” generation. The module includes 16GB of DDR3-1600 via dual slots.


The carrier board that houses the COM Express module also holds a PCIe/104 acquisition card equipped with 4x USB 3.0 host ports for up to 4x USB3 Vision cameras. These USB3 Vision ports are backed up with a dedicated 5.1V USB power supply that can “adjust the voltage to ensure reliable device operation over long cables,” says Active Silicon.

USB3 VPU front and back detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The carrier card also houses most of the I/O, including an RS-232 port, 2x 120GB M.2 SATA SSDs, and 2x general purpose USB 3.0 ports that are provided in addition to the USB3 Vision camera ports. The card also holds the two 3G-SDI (serial digital interface) outputs, each of which provides a 2.97 Gbps serial link that can replace Dual Link HD-SDI connections. The 3G-SDI links support up to 1080p60 streaming video transmissions.

The USB3 VPU is further equipped with a watchdog, a reset button, LEDs, and a multi-I/O development port complex that can be closed-off for runtime use. The latter provides interfaces for keyboard and mouse (2x USB 2.0), monitor (DisplayPort), and network (GbE). There’s a 12V power supply, and the system supports temperatures of 0 to 40°C (recommended) or 0 to 50°C (may result in CPU throttle-back).

Customization services available to volume customers include different PCIe/104 carrier cards with different I/O, as well as more “network or output ports for multi-camera applications.” Other COM Express modules are also available for different processor options. The USB3 VPU is touted for its high reliability and long product life.

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the USB3 Vision Processing Unit. More information may be found on Active Silicon’s USB3 VPU product page.

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