camera sensor

PixyMon and Arduino

The goals for this project are to introduce you to the CMUcam5 Pixy and show how easy it is to implement a camera into your DIY projects, even in a complex electromechanical system like a wheeled autonomous robot. Pixy is a flexible, compact, adjustable, and easy to setup camera sensor that has the ability to detect and send information about certain types of objects. We will cover the basics of the camera and learn how to communicate between Pixy and Arduino in general.


  • Arduino Uno (You can use any Arduino)
  • CMUcam5 Pixy Camera
  • Servo motor (S06NF)
  • Small piece of wood (for attaching the camera to the servo, I’m just using screws)
  • Cables (for the camera USB MINI and for the Uno USB B)
  • External 5V for the servo (WARNING! if you connect the servo to your Arduino and power it through USB it will fry your Arduino)


  • Arduino IDE 1.6.9
  • PixyMon software
  • PixyMon library for Arduino
camera sensor

Figure 1. CMUcam5 Pixy Camera

 CMUcam5 Pixy is a small, easy-to-use, low-cost and open-source camera. It has it’s own processor and it outputs what it detects 50 times per second. It can also connect to Arduino, Raspberry Pi and many more. It uses very popular interfaces like SPI, I2C, UART, and USB. It has a custom program which allows you to connect to devices, and you can download it free here.

Setting up Pixy

Download the software PixyMon here and install it. While it’s installing, connect Pixy by USB and check if the RGB Led is lighting up.

Open PixyMon and make sure your Pixy is connected via USB. If everything is connected correctly, it will output what the camera sees. For example, I placed a purple lid as a test object to check Pixy camera’s output.

camera sensor

Figure 2: Pixy Raw image output

By going to the Action submenu and clicking Set Signature 1, the video should freeze and you can select what color/object you want to detect using the camera.

camera sensor

After marking the color/object the video will start playing and the camera sensor will detect the color/object as shown on Figure 3. You can setup up to 7 objects/colors you want at the same time. If you mark them correctly and setup the visual field there should be no problems detecting multiple objects/colors.

camera sensor

Figure 3: Pixy’s vision with detection

To clear your preset signatures you can use Action-> Clear All Signatures or by choosing Clear Signature you can clear signatures one by one (Enter the number of the signature in the console).

By adjusting Settings -> Signature 1, you can modify the size of the Pixy’s field-of-view.

Extra (File->Configure)

  • By changing the brightness of the camera you can achieve more in the dark.
  • In Camera you can adjust the white balance, which is very useful.
  • With the Action->Default program you will only see the colors that are detected; no video output.

There is a custom library for using Pixy with your Arduino. I’m using an Arduino Uno but you can use any version you have. The library is very useful; it provides beginners with simple examples and the experts with great platforms for development.

Let’s first setup an object for detecting, similar to what we did earlier at the setup of the camera.

Download Arduino libraries here (under “Arduino libraries and examples”) []; this will allow communication between your Arduino and the Pixy camera. Then, add it to your libraries in Arduino IDE (Sketch->Include Library->Add .zip Library)

Open up a simple Example called hello_world by going to Example->Pixy->hello_world.

camera sensor

Upload it to your board and open up the terminal (Tools->Serial Monitor).

At this point, you will see a message that reads “Starting…” followed by information about the detected object.

hello_world code explanation

In the setup() function, the serial and pixy gets initialized and configured.

The loop() function contains several variables which are used for printing and getting the blocks from pixy. With pixy.getBlocks() we can grab the objects that were detected. The if (i%50==0) can be configured for the FPS we want to get info on. If we want 1 information every second we write %1 instead of %50.

sprintf(buf, “Detected %d:\n”, blocks); outputs the current object detected by the ID and it puts the necessary data into the buffer. In the for loop we are getting all sorts of information about the object, width, height, x, y, and signature.

camera sensor

Let the servo take control

Now that Pixy is successfully connected to Arduino, I’m going to do a simple experiment by attaching the Pixy to a servo and have the servo turn away when the camera sees a certain type of color/object.

For this experiment, I will set the Pixy to detect a round-shaped purple container and program so that the servo turns away from it whenever the container comes into its visual field.

The construction:

camera sensor

Figure 4: The finished construction

I am using the S06NF servo and small screws to attach the servo to the camera, as shown in Figure 5.

camera sensor

Figure 5: Camera attached to the servo motor

For the hardware part only the simple wiring is left. Connect the SPI cable to the camera and the servo to the Arduino. I’m using pin 9 for controlling the servo.

camera sensor

Figure 6: The wiring diagram


Don’t forget to connect the GND’s together. If you don’t connect the Power supply, Servo and Arduino GND together, the servo will freak out!

Here, I’m using an old adapter for 5V powersupply.


In this tutorial, we covered the basics of the PixyMon camera and have developed a simple servo driven application. Instead of chasing an object, we have created a system that turns away when it detects an object. In Part 2, we will expand on this concept more in depth to develop an interactive system with multiple servos to control the orientation of a table using a ball as an object.

If you have any comments or questions, please leave them for us at Google +. Follow us there;

Continue to Part 2 of this Article>