vizy is a Linux-based “AI camera” based on the Raspberry Pi 4 that uses machine learning and machine vision to achieve some neat tricks, and has a design centered around hacking capability. I found it ridiculously easy to get up and running, and it was just as easy to make changes on my own and start coming up with ideas.
I was running pre-installed examples written in Python in minutes and modifying that same code in about 30 more seconds. Best of all, I did it all without installing a development environment, or even leaving my web browser, for that matter. I have to say, it created a very hacker-friendly experience.
Vizy comes from the people of Charmed Laboratories; this isn’t their first stab at smart cameras, and it shows. They also created the Fairy and pixie 2 cameras, of which I happen to own several. I’ve always devoured anything that makes machine vision more accessible and easier to incorporate into projects, so when Charmed Labs kindly offered to send me one of their newer devices, I was eager to see what was new.
I found Vizy to be a highly polished platform with a number of really useful hardware and software features, and a focus on accessibility and ease of use which I really hope to see more of in future products integrated. Let’s take a closer look.
Vizy is based on the Raspberry Pi 4, which sets it apart somewhat from most other embedded machine vision platforms. Like many other platforms, all code and vision processing for Vizy runs locally. However, running on a Raspberry Pi 4 also means having access to a familiar Linux environment, and this feature brings a few benefits that we’ll explore in a moment.
Inside the case is a Raspberry Pi 4, a fan, the lens and camera (which uses the same Sony IMX477 sensor as the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera), and a small power and data management board. I/O attached to the top of the Pi’s 40-pin GPIO header. This board handles power on and off, controls the switchable IR filter, accepts 12V DC input, provides feedback with a beeper and an RGB LED, and features an I/O header with screw terminals for easy interfacing with other devices.
Vizy can almost be thought of as a camera-like case for a Raspberry Pi, as it provides full access to all ports on the Raspberry Pi 4, all of which work as one would expect. One can plug in a monitor and keyboard and see a Linux desktop environment, and adding functionality like cellular wireless connectivity is as easy as plugging in and setting up a USB cellular modem. Interfacing with other systems or hardware – an expected task for a smart camera – becomes easier with the ability to use familiar interfaces and methods.
Features suitable for hackers
One of the things I loved most about exploring Vizy was how quickly I started editing sample code without even having to leave my web browser, thanks to the built-in web terminal interfaces. The samples and apps are all written in Python, and while it’s certainly possible to use whatever method you want to modify the Python code and make changes to the device, it’s also very simple to run an editor in a new browser tab.