In robotic applications real-time response to sensory input is a must.
Video cameras are typically used to provide visual input for robotic systems,
but these produce massive quantities of information which must be processed.
Much of this information is irrelevant for the robot's purposes, however.
Thus, it is better that robotic sensing devices (such as cameras) provide
refined, object oriented, signals for action rather than raw sense data.
As different actions are required in different applications, these sensing
devices should be flexible, or programmable, much in the same way that
gate arrays are a flexible way to provide functionality in a standard integrated
circuit. Using architectures based on object-oriented data structures will
permit many different types of data and data processing to coexist in a
single standardized system. Combined with the application of active sensing
principles such as attentional selection and control optimization, such
systems will provide a viable path towards achieving the goals of machine
vision researchers. We have developed a CMOS analog VLSI smart sensor which
incorporates an ``attentional'' mechanism, which determines the location
in the sensed image which is most ``salient'' and outputs the coordinates
of this location. This sensor chip is based on a model of the way visual
attention acts to control the generation of eye movements in the human
brain. To date, we have simulated the activity of such a device and verified
its operation. We have fabricated, through the Canadian Microelectronics
Centre, a set of test chips which contain the building blocks as well as
a preliminary prototype of the complete sensor. These are currently undergoing
testing. We are investigating the application for such a chip to visually
acquire a salient target and direct a point-wise laser based 3-D scanner
towards the target for further processing. Such a system could be used
in surveillance applications, such as for watching over warehouses or large
A micro-photograph of the prototype attention/saccade generation VLSI integrated circuit.