The Sipeed MaixSense A010 Camera is probably the cheapest depth camera you will find to add to your project.
Instead of capturing color, depth cameras capture the distance to the nearest obstacle at each pixel. They are the most advanced and powerful distance sensors you can incorporate into your project.
In general, depth cameras incorporate a normal camera, called RGBD cameras (color + depth). But, in general, the cheapest ones are around 100€. Which for a domestic robot… begins to be expensive.
In addition, they generally require connection via USB, to a computer, with higher power consumption, etc, etc. In short, they are reserved for “medium and large” robots.
In this case, the Sipeed MaixSense A010 stands out by opting for a very interesting low-cost option, dispensing with the color channel and only keeping the distance measurement. Achieving a device with a price of around 30€.
For its operation, the MaixSense A010 is powered by a Bouffalo BL702 SoC. A 32-bit RISC-V microprocessor that operates at 144Mhz, with a 132KB RAM / 192KB ROM memory.
As for the sensor, we find a time of flight (TOF) OPNOUS TOF sensor with a maximum resolution of 100x100 pixels and with an 8-bit accuracy. The measurement range is from 200 to 2500mm, with a resolution of 10mm.
It also incorporates a 1.14” LCD screen with 240x135 pixels, which provides a real-time preview of the depth map after applying the color map.
Here are some of its main features:
- Bouffalo BL702 32-bit RISC-V processor @144Mhz
- Memory 192KB ROM, 132KB RAM
- UART connection
- OPNOUS TOF sensor 100x100px @20fps
- FOV 70º H, 60º V
- Range 0.2 to 2.5 meters
- Distance measurement 8 bits, with a resolution of 1cm
- 1.14” TFT display
- USB Type-C
- Dimensions 23 x 40 x 10 mm
- Weight 10 grams
As for the connection, unlike “normal” RGBD cameras, which as I said need a computer, the Sipeed MaixSense A10 can be connected directly to an MCU such as an Arduino or an ESP32.
Which is very interesting, because we can add it directly connected to an ESP32, for example, and use it as a distance sensor in a “small” robot.
We do not need a complete computer (like a Raspberry). Which, when carried to a robot, means more weight, more consumption -> larger batteries -> larger motors -> more weight. So in cycle, and in the end all that translates into more money. 💸
However, it is also possible to connect it to a computer via USB and perform image processing from there. In addition, compatibility with ROS (Robot Operating System) further expands the applications of the MaixSense-A010.
Integration with ROS facilitates the incorporation of this module into complex robotic systems. Precise 3D vision data can be used for tasks such as autonomous navigation, object detection, and route planning.
As I said, the strongest point of the Sipeed MaixSense A010 is its price and the ability to connect to an MCU. The resolution is lower than that of “usual” RGBD cameras and it does not have a color channel. But, on the other hand… it only costs 30€!
Sipeed also has higher-end models, such as the MaixSense A075V, which incorporate RGBD sensors (color + depth). But of course, it goes up to 500€, so they are out of reach for the domestic sector.
However, the Sipeed MaixSense A010 seems to me a very appealing device. You will not find another depth camera cheaper, nor a remotely similar distance sensor to connect to your electronics project.