Free Software in Vision

My research area at school is distributed smart cameras, a field which is primarily rooted in computer vision. Despite having access to a range of expensive proprietary software libraries by virtue of having purchased the equipment, most of my computer vision work uses a stack of free software running on Gentoo Linux.

For interfacing to the cameras themselves, we have the excellent libdc1394, a high-level API for interfacing with IEEE 1394 cameras supporting the IIDC specification (which our Prosilica EC1350s, among hundreds of others, do). The Coriander GUI makes configuration and control a snap. The ebuilds available in Portage have so far worked flawlessly for me.

Many computer vision tasks are covered by OpenCV, a former Intel project that is gaining a lot of momentum with academic open source developers worldwide. When I first considered it in early 2006, it had a long way to go in terms of maturity. However, after seeing Gary Bradski‘s talk at ICDSC 2008, I decided to give it another look, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that O’Reilly had just published Learning OpenCV (co-authored by Bradski), and that it was an excellent practical introduction to the library. The latest stable release for Linux at the time of writing, 1.1pre1, shows signs that this library is becoming quite robust. It seems to finally be moving from a simple collection of algorithms toward a fully functional general-purpose computer vision library. The feature list for the June 2009 release has me excited, particularly because of the better Python interface and some big improvements in feature detection and 3D stuff.

Computer vision and related algorithms tend to use a lot of linear algebra, and depending on whether I’m coding in C or in Python, I use the GNU Scientific Library or NumPy, respectively. Both are excellent numerical libraries. I used NumPy fairly extensively in developing PyDSSCC for my Master’s thesis.

My personal Gentoo overlay has ebuilds for both OpenCV (which tends to lag the release version in the official tree) and Gandalf (which is not in the official tree).

Mar 12th, 2009
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