Cameras are everywhere and in everything. The market and applications have exploded in the last ten years. But a cohesive set of standard APIs has been slow to emerge making compatibility challenging.
Hoping to wrestle the multi-tentacled beast under control, Khronos has teamed up with the European Machine Vision Association (EMVA) and formed a new Khronos Working Group to develop an open, royalty-free API standard for controlling camera system runtimes in embedded, mobile, industrial, XR, automotive, and scientific markets. Interest and desire is high, and during 2021 over 70 companies participated in an EMVA/Khronos-hosted Exploratory Group to develop a Scope of Work document.
Their motivation is easy to understand. The lack of interoperable camera API standards increases application development time and maintenance costs while reducing portability and opportunity for code reuse, resulting in unnecessarily high integration costs for camera technologies.
The Camera API will be designed to provide applications, libraries, and frameworks low-level, explicit control over camera runtimes, with a low-level of abstraction that still provides application portability over a wide variety of camera systems with effective, performant control to generate streams of data for consumption by downstream applications and clients.
The Camera API Working Group will start meetings in February 2022, and anyone interested is invited to join.
What do we think?
The proposed Khronos API will provide low-level control, close-to-the-hardware control of lenses, sensors, and processors to enable the generation of a stream of images. How that image stream gets used is up to the design of the system or product that integrates the camera functionality. If that product is something like a security camera, then privacy and security will be major concerns, but those issues are handled by the system software and applications much higher in the stack. Defining the bits and bytes of an API is what Khronos does best—and this API is consistent with Khronos’ “connecting software to silicon” mission. However, enabling the historically standards-adverse sensor and camera industry to reach consensus on an API is not a trivial challenge, we will see if Khronos manages to wrangle the consensus reached in the Exploratory Group over to the Working Group that will undertake the detailed design work.