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3D sensing camera PC runs Linux, hits Indiegogo

Oct 1, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,316 views

Orbbec has launched an “Astra Pro” 3D depth camera, also available in a Linux-based “Persee” camera-PC, with an 8-meter range and 5-millimeter accuracy.

Shenzhen-based Orbbec has gone to Indiegogo to launch a campaign for a $99 and up Orbbec Astra Pro 3D depth sensing camera and a $179 and up Orbbec Persee camera and sensing computer aimed at developers. The devices enable 3D and gesture control applications for home, office, retail, education, entertainment, manufacturing, robotics, 3D scanning and printing, point cloud, and other creative and DIY projects, says Orbbec, which has been developing the technology for three years.

The gesture control aspects are somewhat similar to the Leap Motion controller and other, fast-emerging 3D vision, augmented reality, and VR technologies. Yet, we’ve never before seen all these features incorporated like this within a developer-friendly, low-cost computer. A free, OpenNi-compatible SDK is also provided (see farther below).

Orbbec Astra Pro
(click image to enlarge)

The Orbbec Astra Pro camera incorporates a 720p color sensor and a proprietary 3D microchip that can process depth data in real time. The Astra Pro is touted for its low latency, relatively long, 0.4- to 8-meter range, and high 5-millimeter accuracy (at two meters). The camera also filters out low-quality depth pixels to offers higher resolution that other similarly priced cameras, says Orbbec.

For those who can’t wait until the end of the year for the Astra Pro, a first-generation Astra camera will be available immediately after the Indiegogo campaign ends on Oct. 29, for the same $99 and up price. The main difference appears to be that the Astra is limited to a VGA camera instead of the Pro’s 720p.

3D effects shots using the Astra Pro showing accuracy (left) and range. The human figure at right is 6 meters away, and the wall is 8 meters
(click images to enlarge)

The Astra Pro level camera, as well as the version inside the Orbbec Persee (see farther below), delivers a 16-bit, 640 x 480 depth image size at 30 frames per second. It also provides an RGB image size of 1280 x 720 pixels at 30fps, complete with UVC support. The camera offers a field of view with the following specs: 73° diagonal, 60° horizontal, and 49.5° vertical.

The Astra Pro supplies a USB 2.0 connection for video streaming and power, and includes a pair of microphones. The 160 x 40 x 30mm camera weighs 0.6 kilograms.

Persee “camera computer”

The $179 (and up) Orbbec Persee “camera computer” ships in early 2016. The 184 x 46 x 35mm device incorporates the Astra Pro’s camera technology and dual microphones, and adds other functions like an RGB sensor, a proximity safety sensor, and an IR projector and sensor. Together, these let the Persee “see, hear, understand, and respond to people and their environments with unprecedented accuracy,” says Orbbec.

Orbbec Persee

The Persee camera computer runs Linux, and “can support both Ubuntu and Android out-of-the-box,” Orbbec told LinuxGizmos in an email. The device runs its embedded OS on an unspecified system-on-chip, which integrates 1.8GHz quad-core Cortex-A17 along with a 600MHz Mali-T7 GPU with OpenCL support. The camera computer is further equipped with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of eMMC flash, and a microSD slot supporting 64GB cards.

Orbbec Persee, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The Persee’s interfaces include Ethernet, an HDMI 2.0 port with audio support, and both a USB 2.0 host port and a micro-USB OTG port. Wireless capabilities include Bluetooth and dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz WiFi. The Persee weighs 1.8 kilograms, and runs on a 5V, 3A power supply.

Orbbec Persee front (left) and rear details
(click images to enlarge)

The system is touted for its free, cross-platform SDK, which is said to be compatible with the open source OpenNi 3D sensing middleware project. The system supports Android, Linux, OS X, and Windows desktops, as well as creative coding frameworks including Processing and Native C and C++11.

The SDK is said to support robust hand tracking now, while future plans call for support for full-body skeleton tracking, as well as the ability to access sensor data from multiple apps simultaneously. The SDK will also support additional languages including C# and Java, and additional frameworks, including openFrameworks, Unity 3D, and Cinder.

Below are three demo videos from Orbbec that demonstrate its 3D sensing technology.

Orbbec depth map demo

Orbbec Android gesture control demo

Orbbec Android gaming demo

“Orbbec Persee is a long awaited, and much needed catalyst for the development of creative, intelligent computing experiences,” stated George Barbastathis, Singapore Research Professor of Optics and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. “Reaching this level of 3D sophistication, at an affordable price, is groundbreaking.”

Further information

The Orbbec Astra Pro camera is available on Indiegogo starting in early bird packages of $99, with shipments due by the end of the year. The Orbbec Persee computer goes for $179, $199, and $209, depending on how early you jump in, and other bundled discounts and packages are available through Oct. 29. More information may be found on the Orbbec Astra Pro and Persee Indiegogo page, as well as the Orbbec website.

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