Omron image sensors designed to be 'eyes' of IoT

The face-recognition cameras could be used for video games and child monitoring

Omron showed off a face-recognition camera at Ceatec 2014 that's designed to be the "eyes" of the Internet of Things. The camera can automatically send a signal to turn down the lights when it recognizes that someone is sleepy.

Omron showed off a face-recognition camera at Ceatec 2014 that's designed to be the "eyes" of the Internet of Things. The camera can automatically send a signal to turn down the lights when it recognizes that someone is sleepy.

Intelligent image sensors that can tell everything from your age to how you feel may give "eyes" to the Internet of Things (IoT) if technology from Omron is anything to judge by.

The healthcare electronics maker has been showing off a smart image sensor this week at the Ceatec 2014 expo outside Tokyo. It can automatically determine a subject's age, gender, age and facial expression, a sign of his or her state of mind.

The HVC-C, or Human Vision Components Consumer Model, fits in the palm of one's hand. It contains a small camera and modules for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity with apps on Android and iOS smartphones.

The device uses Omron's Okao computer vision algorithms, which can detect and recognize faces based on images in a database. The HVC-C can pick up where a person is looking, whether they are blinking, and hand movements.

"This sensor can be used as part of the smart home," said Seiichi Manabe of Omron's electronic components business.

Potential applications include positioning the camera above a baby's crib to monitor when it wakes up or cries, or using it as a motion controller for smartphone video games.

At Omron's Ceatec booth near its table tennis robot, the HVC-C was linked to a tablet showing an image of a virtual living room. Waving a hand near the sensor or putting on an angry or happy face would change the lighting in the virtual room.

"When you feel sleepy in your smart home, a sensor like this could automatically turn the lights down," said Omron spokesman Arihiro Yokota.

The HVC-C is slated to go on sale in December. Omron has not announced pricing or availability yet but said it wants to get developers interested in the device to increase its potential applications.

As components such as 3G modules shrink, more and more devices in the home and in other environments are coming online. Adding computer-vision cameras to the growing tide of connected non-phone devices, which IDC believes will reach 8 billion by the end of 2018, could add smarts to the nascent IoT.

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