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Publication numberUS20060011724 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/891,851
Publication dateJan 19, 2006
Filing dateJul 15, 2004
Priority dateJul 15, 2004
Also published asUS8083146, US20070102520, WO2006019847A1
Publication number10891851, 891851, US 2006/0011724 A1, US 2006/011724 A1, US 20060011724 A1, US 20060011724A1, US 2006011724 A1, US 2006011724A1, US-A1-20060011724, US-A1-2006011724, US2006/0011724A1, US2006/011724A1, US20060011724 A1, US20060011724A1, US2006011724 A1, US2006011724A1
InventorsEugene Joseph, Brad Carlson
Original AssigneeEugene Joseph, Brad Carlson
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Optical code reading system and method using a variable resolution imaging sensor
US 20060011724 A1
Abstract
An optical code reading system having an auto-exposure system for use with a variable resolution imaging sensor in which very low resolution images are used to determine exposure parameters is presented. The very low resolution images can be transferred much faster than high resolution images which results in a very fast auto-exposure system. The optical code reading system further includes an optical zoom system for zooming in and out of a target without the use of any moveable components. The optical zoom system makes use of a binning and/or subsampling feature of the imaging sensor for zooming in and out of the target. High-speed decoding methodologies are also presented for the optical code reading system. One decoding methodology utilizes low resolution images for performing high-speed decoding. Other methodologies utilize low resolution images and higher resolution images, if the optical code imaged by the low resolution images is not decoded successfully.
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Claims(46)
1. An auto-exposure control system for an optical system, said auto-exposure system comprising:
a processor for receiving from a variable resolution imaging sensor a low resolution image having at least one characteristic, determining at least one value for the at least one characteristic, associating said at least one value with at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value, and transmitting at least one auto-exposure control signal for communicating the at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value, wherein the variable resolution imaging sensor can output images having at least two different resolutions; and
control circuitry for receiving said at least one auto-exposure control signal and controlling at least one exposure-related feature of said optical system in accordance with said at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value.
2. The auto-exposure control system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one characteristic is selected from the group consisting of light intensity for one pixel of the low resolution image, and a statistical function of a group of pixels of the low resolution image.
3. The auto-exposure control system according to claim 1, wherein the processor accesses at least one data structure for associating the at least one value with the at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value.
4. The auto-exposure control system according to claim 1, further comprising sensor control circuitry for controlling the imaging sensor for generating the low resolution image.
5. An optical zoom system for an optical system, said optical zoom system comprising:
an imaging sensor having a pixel array and circuitry for combining two or more pixels to form an enlarged pixel; and
a processor for determining a zoom setting from at least two zoom settings and controlling said imaging sensor for outputting an image corresponding to the determined zoom setting, wherein the outputted image is one of an image corresponding to the pixel array of the imaging sensor and an image corresponding to a portion of the pixel array of the imaging sensor, wherein said image corresponding to the portion of the pixel array is comprised of individual pixels or two or more pixels combined to form an enlarged pixel.
6. The optical zoom system according to claim 5, further comprising a range finder system for determining distance information from said imaging sensor to a target.
7. The optical zoom system according to claim 6, further comprising means for communicating the distance information to the processor for use in determining the zoom setting from the at least two zoom settings.
8. The optical zoom system according to claim 7, further comprising a data structure capable of being accessed by said processor for correlating the distance information with one of the at least two zoom settings.
9. An optical code reading system comprising:
an auto-exposure control system comprising:
a processor for receiving from an imaging sensor a low resolution image having at least one characteristic, determining at least one value for the at least one characteristic, associating said at least one value with at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value, and transmitting at least one auto-exposure control signal for communicating the at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value; and
control circuitry for receiving said at least one auto-exposure control signal and controlling at least one exposure-related feature of said optical system in accordance with said at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value; and
an optical zoom system, wherein the imaging sensor has a pixel array and circuitry for combining two or more pixels to form an enlarged pixel, and wherein said processor determines a zoom setting from at least two zoom settings and controls said imaging sensor for outputting an image corresponding to the determined zoom setting, wherein the outputted image is one of an image corresponding to the pixel array of the imaging sensor and an image corresponding to a portion of the pixel array of the imaging sensor, wherein said image corresponding to the portion of the pixel array is comprised of individual pixels or two or more pixels combined to form an enlarged pixel.
10. The optical code reading system according to claim 9, wherein the at least one characteristic is selected from the group consisting of light intensity for one pixel of the low resolution image, and a statistical function of a group of pixels of the low resolution image.
11. The optical code reading system according to claim 9, wherein the processor accesses at least one data structure for associating the at least one value with the at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value.
12. The optical code reading system according to claim 9, further comprising sensor control circuitry for controlling the imaging sensor for generating the low resolution image.
13. The optical code reading system according to claim 9, further comprising a range finder system for determining distance information from said imaging sensor to a target.
14. The optical code reading system according to claim 13, further comprising means for communicating the distance information to the processor for use in determining the zoom setting from the at least two zoom settings.
15. The optical code reading system according to claim 14, further comprising a data structure capable of being accessed by said processor for correlating the distance information with one of the at least two zoom settings.
16. The optical code reading system according to claim 9, wherein the imaging sensor is a variable resolution imaging sensor capable of outputting images having at least two different resolutions.
17. An optical code reading system comprising:
an imaging sensor capable of generating and outputting images having at least two different resolutions;
means for controlling the imaging sensor for generating and outputting an image having a particular resolution for an optical code; and
means for analyzing the image having the particular resolution.
18. The optical code reading system according to claim 17, wherein the particular resolution is a low resolution.
19. The optical code reading system according to claim 17, further comprising:
means for determining whether an image having a higher resolution than the image having the particular resolution should be generated and outputted by said imaging sensor; and
means for controlling the imaging sensor for generating and outputting the image having the higher resolution in accordance with the determination.
20. A method for decoding an optical code comprising the steps of:
providing an imaging sensor capable of generating and outputting images having at least two different resolutions;
controlling the imaging sensor for generating and outputting an image having a particular resolution for the optical code; and
processing the image for decoding the optical code.
21. The method according to claim 20, wherein the particular resolution is a low resolution.
22. The method according to claim 20, further comprising the steps of:
if the optical code was not decoded, controlling the imaging sensor for generating and outputting an image having a higher resolution than the image having the particular resolution; and
repeating the method starting from the processing step.
23. An optical code reading system comprising:
an imaging sensor capable of generating and outputting images having at least two different resolutions;
means for controlling the imaging sensor for generating and outputting an image having a low resolution and an image having a high resolution for the optical code;
means for attempting to decode said optical code imaged by the low resolution image;
means for determining whether the optical code imaged by the low resolution image was decoded and attempting to decode said optical code imaged by the high resolution image, if the optical code imaged by the low resolution image was not decoded; and
means for determining whether the optical code imaged by the high resolution image was decoded.
24. A method for decoding an optical code comprising the steps of:
providing an imaging sensor capable of generating and outputting images having at least two different resolutions;
controlling the imaging sensor for generating and outputting an image having a low resolution and an image having a high resolution for the optical code;
attempting to decode said optical code imaged by the low resolution image;
determining whether the optical code imaged by the low resolution image was decoded;
attempting to decode said optical code imaged by the high resolution image, if according to the determining step, the optical code imaged by the low resolution image was not decoded; and
determining whether the optical code imaged by the high resolution image was decoded.
25. The method according to claim 24, further comprising the step of repeating the method starting from the controlling step, if according to the last determining step, the optical code imaged by the high resolution image was not decoded.
26. The method according to claim 24, wherein the step of controlling comprises the steps of:
setting a focus position of an optical code reading system to a NEAR position for generating and outputting the image having the low resolution; and
setting the focus position of the optical code reading system to a FAR position for generating and outputting the image having the high resolution.
27. An optical code reading system comprising:
a variable resolution imaging sensor capable of generating images having at least two different resolutions; and
a trigger for actuating an image and decode feature for imaging an optical code with the variable resolution imaging sensor and for decoding said optical code using a decoder.
28. The optical code reading system according to claim 27, further comprising:
means for determining an imaging resolution for said variable resolution imaging sensor; and
means for controlling said variable resolution imaging sensor for imaging said optical code according to the determined imaging resolution.
29. The optical code reading system according to claim 27, further comprising:
a processor for receiving from said variable resolution imaging sensor a low resolution image having at least one characteristic, determining at least one value for the at least one characteristic, associating said at least one value with at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value, and transmitting at least one auto-exposure control signal for communicating the at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value; and
control circuitry for receiving said at least one auto-exposure control signal and controlling at least one exposure-related feature of said optical system in accordance with said at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value.
30. The optical code reading system according to claim 29, wherein the at least one characteristic is selected from the group consisting of light intensity for one pixel of the low resolution image, and a statistical function of a group of pixels of the low resolution image.
31. The optical code reading system according to claim 29, wherein the processor accesses at least one data structure for associating the at least one value with the at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value.
32. The optical code reading system according to claim 29, further comprising sensor control circuitry for controlling the variable resolution imaging sensor for generating the low resolution image.
33. The optical code reading system according to claim 27, further comprising an optical zoom system comprising:
means for combining two or more pixels of a pixel array of said variable resolution imaging sensor to form an enlarged pixel; and
a processor for determining a zoom setting from at least two zoom settings and controlling said variable resolution imaging sensor for outputting an image corresponding to the determined zoom setting, wherein the outputted image is one of an image corresponding to the pixel array of said variable resolution imaging sensor and an image corresponding to a portion of the pixel array of the variable resolution imaging sensor, wherein said image corresponding to the portion of the pixel array is comprised of individual pixels or two or more pixels combined to form an enlarged pixel.
34. The optical code reading system according to claim 27, further comprising an optical zoom system comprising:
means for subsampling at least one pixel from a set of pixels; and
a processor for determining a zoom setting from at least two zoom settings and controlling said imaging sensor for outputting an image corresponding to the determined zoom setting, wherein the outputted image is one of an image corresponding to the pixel array of the imaging sensor and an image corresponding to a portion of the pixel array of the imaging sensor, wherein said image corresponding to the portion of the pixel array is comprised of at least one pixel from the set of pixels.
35. The optical code reading system according to claim 33, further comprising a range finder system for determining distance information from said variable resolution imaging sensor to a target.
36. The optical code reading system according to claim 35, further comprising means for communicating the distance information to the processor for use in determining the zoom setting from the at least two zoom settings.
37. The optical code reading system according to claim 35, further comprising a data structure capable of being accessed by said processor for correlating the distance information with one of the at least two zoom settings.
38. An optical zoom system for an optical system, said optical zoom system comprising:
an imaging sensor having a pixel array and circuitry for subsampling at least one pixel from a set of pixels; and
a processor for determining a zoom setting from at least two zoom settings and controlling said imaging sensor for outputting an image corresponding to the determined zoom setting, wherein the outputted image is one of an image corresponding to the pixel array of the imaging sensor and an image corresponding to a portion of the pixel array of the imaging sensor, wherein said image corresponding to the portion of the pixel array is comprised of at least one pixel from the set of pixels.
39. An optical code reading system comprising:
an auto-exposure control system comprising:
a processor for receiving from an imaging sensor a low resolution image having at least one characteristic, determining at least one value for the at least one characteristic, associating said at least one value with at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value, and transmitting at least one auto-exposure control signal for communicating the at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value; and
control circuitry for receiving said at least one auto-exposure control signal and controlling at least one exposure-related feature of said optical system in accordance with said at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value; and
an optical zoom system, wherein the imaging sensor has a pixel array and circuitry for subsampling at least one pixel from a set of pixels, and wherein said processor determines a zoom setting from at least two zoom settings and controls said imaging sensor for outputting an image corresponding to the determined zoom setting, wherein the outputted image is one of an image corresponding to the pixel array of the imaging sensor and an image corresponding to a portion of the pixel array of the imaging sensor, wherein said image corresponding to the portion of the pixel array is comprised of at least one pixel from the set of pixels.
40. The optical code reading system according to claim 39, wherein the at least one characteristic is selected from the group consisting of light intensity for one pixel of the low resolution image, and a statistical function of a group of pixels of the low resolution image.
41. The optical code reading system according to claim 39, wherein the processor accesses at least one data structure for associating the at least one value with the at least one corresponding exposure-related parameter value.
42. The optical code reading system according to claim 39, further comprising sensor control circuitry for controlling the imaging sensor for generating the low resolution image.
43. The optical code reading system according to claim 39, further comprising a range finder system for determining distance information from said imaging sensor to a target.
44. The optical code reading system according to claim 43, further comprising means for communicating the distance information to the processor for use in determining the zoom setting from the at least two zoom settings.
45. The optical code reading system according to claim 44, further comprising a data structure capable of being accessed by said processor for correlating the distance information with one of the at least two zoom settings.
46. The optical code reading system according to claim 39, wherein the imaging sensor is a variable resolution imaging sensor capable of outputting images having at least two different resolutions.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present disclosure relates to the field of imaging, and specifically to an optical code reading system and method using a variable resolution imaging sensor. In particular, the present disclosure relates to using variable resolution imaging sensors for providing high-speed auto-exposure, high-speed decoding and 2× optical zoom in an optical code reading system.

2. Description of the Related Art

CCD or CMOS imaging sensors are typically used in imaging devices, such as optical code reading devices for reading and decoding optical codes, such as bar codes. These sensors generally have an imaging pixel array having a plurality of photosensitive elements or pixels for capturing an image. Each pixel of the pixel array has a fixed aspect ratio (i.e., width-to-height). The aspect ratio of the pixels in an optical code reading device is generally determined by the type and/or density of the images, e.g., bar codes, to be read by the imaging device.

Due to the limited dynamic range of CCD, CMOS and other area sensors, auto-exposure systems are generally used to generate images with sufficient information content for automatic identification purposes. A typical auto-exposure system uses the output image to determine the exposure parameters. This ties the time for auto-exposure to the time it takes to transfer frames from the imaging sensor to the auto-exposure system. For CCD and most CMOS imaging sensors, the worst case time required for auto-exposure is 2-3 times the typical frame transfer time of 33 ms. This amount of time can substantially slow down the first-read times for an imager or imaging engine in an optical code reading system and significantly affect any imager's performance. (The first-read time is one of the major parameters used in evaluating imager performance.) Accordingly, a need exists for an auto-exposure system for use with a variable resolution imaging sensor in which very low resolution images are used to determine exposure parameters. The short time required to transfer the low resolution image, as opposed to a high resolution image, results in a very fast auto-exposure system (few milli-seconds).

Optical zoom systems are generally used in optical code reading devices for precisely moving at least one lens and other components of the imaging devices. Hence, these optical zoom systems require movable optical and other components which need to be precisely moved at very short distances. Accordingly, a need exists for an optical zoom system for use with a variable resolution imaging sensor for zooming in and out of a target, such as a bar code, without moving any optical and non-optical components.

In the case of an optical code reading system, informational encoded content transferred by the images generated is thereafter decoded using decoding algorithms stored as a set of programmable instructions within at least one processor or decoder of the system. The images generated by CCD and CMOS imaging sensors are generally high resolution images, thereby requiring a long period of decode time (trigger to beep) to decode their informational encoded content (in the order of 50 to over 250 ms). These decode times are too slow for high performance bar code reading applications. Accordingly, a need exists to reduce the decode time by programming a variable resolution imaging sensor to generate a low resolution image which takes less time to transfer to the at least one processor or decoder from the sensor. A need also exists for programming the variable resolution imaging sensor to continuously generate an image having a higher resolution than the previously generated image and transferring the new image (or a portion thereof) to the at least one processor or decoder, until the informational encoded content transferred by the most-recently transferred image is decoded or a predetermined period of time has lapsed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An aspect of the present disclosure is to provide an optical code reading system having an auto-exposure system for use with a variable resolution imaging sensor in which very low resolution images are used to determine exposure parameters.

Another aspect of the present disclosure is to provide an optical code reading system having an optical zoom system for use with a variable resolution imaging sensor for zooming in and out of a target, such as a bar code, without moving any optical and non-optical components.

Another aspect of the present disclosure is to provide an optical code reading system having a variable resolution imaging sensor programmed to generate a low resolution image, thereby requiring less time to transfer the image to at least one processor or decoder for decoding.

Another aspect of the present disclosure is to provide an optical code reading system having a variable resolution imaging sensor programmed to continuously generate an image having a higher resolution than the previously generated image and transferring the new image (or a portion thereof) to at least one processor or decoder, until the informational encoded content transferred by the most-recently transferred image is decoded or a predetermined period of time has lapsed.

Another aspect of the present disclosure is to provide an optical code reading system with at least one variable resolution imaging sensor and incorporating all of the features and methodologies recited in the aspects identified above, thereby having improved performance, a high-speed auto-exposure system, a high-speed decode time for reading and decoding low- and high-density bar codes, an optical zoom system having no moveable parts, and other benefits and advantages.

In accordance with the above aspects, the present disclosure provides an optical code reading system having an auto-exposure system for use with a variable resolution imaging sensor in which very low resolution images are used to determine exposure parameters. The very low resolution images can be transferred much faster than high resolution images which results in a very fast auto-exposure system (few milli-seconds). The present disclosure further provides an optical code reading system having an optical zoom system for use with a variable resolution imaging sensor for zooming in and out of a target, such as a bar code, without using any moveable optical and non-optical components.

The present disclosure further provides an optical code reading system having a variable resolution imaging sensor programmed to generate a low resolution image, thereby requiring less time to transfer the image to at least one processor or decoder for decoding. The present disclosure further provides an optical code reading system having a variable resolution imaging sensor programmed to continuously generate an image having a higher resolution than the previously generated image and transferring the new image to at least one processor or decoder, until the informational encoded content transferred by the most-recently transferred image is decoded or a predetermined period of time has lapsed.

Additionally, the present disclosure provides an optical code reading system with at least one variable resolution imaging sensor and incorporating all of the features and methodologies recited above, thereby having improved performance, a high-speed auto-exposure system, a high-speed decode time for reading and decoding low- and high-density bar codes, an optical zoom system having no moveable parts, and other benefits and advantages.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various embodiments of the present disclosure will be described herein below with reference to the figures wherein:

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of an auto-exposure system for use with a variable resolution imaging sensor of an optical code reading system in accordance with the present disclosure;

FIG. 2A is a schematic illustration of an optical zoom system using a variable resolution imaging sensor without binning for reading out the center field of view in accordance with the present disclosure;

FIG. 2B is a schematic illustration of an optical zoom system using a variable resolution imaging sensor with binning for reading out the full field of view in accordance with the present disclosure;

FIG. 3A is a flow chart illustrating a method of decoding an optical code using an optical code reading system in accordance with the present disclosure;

FIG. 3B is a flow chart illustrating another method of decoding an optical code using an optical code reading system in accordance with the present disclosure; and

FIG. 4 is a schematic illustration of an optical code reading system having an imaging device in accordance with the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

With reference to FIG. 1, there is shown a schematic illustration of an auto-exposure system for use with a variable resolution imaging sensor of an optical code reading system in accordance with the present disclosure. Even though the present disclosure is described herein with reference to an optical code reading system for imaging and decoding optical codes, such as bar codes, the aspects and features described herein can be incorporated in other systems, such as a video camera system, a digital camera system, etc.

The auto-exposure system 10 of the optical code reading system 200 (FIG. 4) makes use of a variable resolution imaging sensor 12 which is capable of generating and outputting images having at least two different resolutions, i.e., a low and a high resolution. The variable resolution imaging sensor 12 can also be capable of generating and outputting images having a plurality of resolutions ranging from low to high. The sensor 12 can be a CCD, CMOS, or other type of imaging sensor as known in the art.

The variable resolution imaging sensor 12 is programmed for outputting very low resolution images 13 when operating the auto-exposure system 10. Or, as shown by FIG. 1, the sensor 12 can be accompanied by sensor control circuitry 14 (e.g., a processor, ASIC, etc.) for controlling the sensor 12 via sensor control signals 11 for causing the variable resolution imaging sensor 12 to output low resolution images 13 when operating the auto-exposure system 10.

In a limiting case according to the present disclosure, the sensor 12 is programmed or the accompanying sensor control circuitry 14 controls the sensor to output an image consisting of a single pixel. This is equivalent to having a single photodiode facing the target field of view.

The low resolution images are then used by the auto-exposure system 10 to determine exposure parameters, such as shutter speed, sensor gain, lens aperture and brightness of illumination. Accordingly, the low resolution images are transferred to processing circuitry 16 which can include at least one processor, such as processor 62 (FIGS. 2A and 2B) and/or an ASIC for determining exposure parameters. The processing circuitry 16 can be resident within the sensor 12, within sensor control circuitry 14, or, as shown by FIG. 1, as a separate unit. The low resolution images are transferred much faster than high resolution images used in prior art auto-exposure systems which results in a very fast auto-exposure system (few milli-seconds).

To determine exposure-related parameter values, the processing circuitry 16 first determines at least one characteristic of the low resolution image or single pixel, such as, for example, the incident light intensity of the low resolution image or single pixel. The processing circuitry 16 then correlates the determined incident light intensity or other characteristic of the low resolution image with one or more auto-exposure parameters by accessing one or more data structures 18, such as look-up tables, stored within the processing circuitry 16, as shown by FIG. 1.

For example, in accordance with the present disclosure, the processing circuitry 16 of the optical code reading system 200 determines the incident light intensity of the low resolution image or single pixel to be x and then correlates x with a look-up table corresponding to an auto-exposure parameter to determine the exposure-related parameter value associated with a light intensity of x. In the case of the low resolution image, the auto-exposure system 10 preferably takes the average intensity, or other statistical function, of the pixels at the center of the image for correlating with the auto-exposure parameter using the look-up table.

The determined light intensity x, or other characteristic of the low resolution image, can also be correlated with one or more other look-up tables corresponding to other auto-exposure parameters, either simultaneously with the first look-up table or non-simultaneously. The determined exposure-related parameter values are then used by the auto-exposure system 10 for appropriately controlling one or more aspects or features of the optical code reading system 200, such as shutter speed, sensor gain, lens aperture and brightness of illumination. As such, one or more auto-exposure control signals 20 are transmitted by the processing circuitry 16 to control circuitry 22. Upon receiving the auto-exposure control signals 20, the control circuitry 22 controls the one or more aspects or features of the optical code reading system 200 in accordance with the exposure-related parameter values.

A 2× optical zoom system of the present disclosure will now be described with reference to FIGS. 2A and 2B. The 2× optical zoom system of the optical code reading system 200 is designated generally by reference numeral 50 and makes use of a variable resolution imaging sensor 12 for zooming in and out of a target, such as a bar code, without using any moveable optical and non-optical components. The optical zoom system 50 of the optical code reading system 200 makes use of a variable resolution imaging sensor having associated circuitry, such as sensor control circuitry 14, for combining one or more rectangular sets of pixels into a single, enlarged pixel; a method referred to as binning.

One imaging sensor designed for digital cameras and having the capability of binning a rectangular set of pixels into a single, enlarged super pixel to change the size or number of pixels forming the image is the Foveon X3™ image sensor available from Foveon, Inc., Santa Clara, Calif. Without binning, the size or number of pixels of an output image generated by the Foveon X3™ image sensor is 1420×1060. With binning, the Foveon X3™ image sensor can form 2×2 super pixels to yield an output image having a size or number of pixels of 710×530; it can form 3×2 super pixels to yield an output image having a size of 473×530; and it can form 3×3 super pixels to yield an output image having a size of 473×353. Further, the Foveon X3™ image sensor has the capability to output a window of the image directly from its pixel array.

As shown by FIG. 2A, without binning, the center field of view 52 can be read out from a pixel array 54 of the imaging sensor 12 to output an image 56 having a size or number of pixels of 710×530. Preferably, the center ¼ field of view is read out from the pixel array 54.

Further, as shown by FIG. 2B, with 2×2 binning, the full field of view 58 of the pixel array 54 can be read out to output an image 60 which also has a size or number of pixels of 710×530. Accordingly, the optical zoom system 50 of the present disclosure operates exactly like a 2× optical zoom system with a sensor pixel array having a number of pixels of 710×530 and without precisely moving any optical and non-optical components.

It is also possible according to the present disclosure to vary the image resolution of the variable resolution imaging sensor 12 by subsampling pixels, e.g., reading every other pixel in the horizontal and vertical direction, without binning. That is, the outputted image is comprised of individual pixels which are not combined with other pixels.

Typically, conventional mega-pixel sensors have at least one low resolution mode and are implemented with subsampling capabilities for supporting a “viewfinder” mode on digital cameras. The present disclosure utilizes features of conventional mega-pixel sensors for auto-exposure, optical zoom and aggressive decoding of optical codes, such as bar code symbols.

The optical zoom system 50 of the optical code reading system 200 of the present disclosure further includes the processor 62. The optical zoom system 50 can also be designed to use the processing circuitry 16. The processor 62 is programmed for controlling the zoom setting of the optical zoom system 50.

The processor 62 can be provided with distance information from a range finder system 64 regarding the distance to a target, such as an optical code, from the imaging sensor 12 and accordingly correlate using a data structure 65, such as a look-up table, the distance to the target as provided by the range finder system 64 with a zoom setting. The look-up table can be stored within the processor 62, as shown by FIGS. 2A and 2B, or be resident outside the processor 62, such as in a database of the optical code reading system 200.

It is contemplated that the processor 62 accesses a different look-up table for correlating distance information with a zoom setting in accordance with the type of application for which the 2× optical zoom system 50 is being used. For example, one look-up table can provide zoom settings for imaging a one-dimensional optical code, another look-up table can provide zoom settings for imaging a two-dimensional optical code, such as a PDF417 code, another look-up table can provide zoom settings for imaging a scene, another look-up table can provide zoom settings for imaging a DPM code, etc.

Upon determining the appropriate zoom setting from at least two zoom settings using the data structure 65, the zoom setting of the optical code reading system 200 can then be changed by generating and transmitting a zoom setting signal 66 from the processor 62 to the imaging sensor 12. The zoom setting signal 66 controls the circuitry associated with the imaging sensor 12 for outputting an image having a particular resolution which provides the determined zoom setting. With this set-up, the optical zoom system 50 of the present disclosure can change the zoom setting of the optical code reading system 200 “on the fly” or instantaneously.

In the alternative, instead of using the range finder system 64 to determine distance to the target, the processor 62 of the optical zoom system 50 is programmed to alter the zoom setting in alternate image scans, until the target, such as an optical code, is adequately zoomed and successfully decoded.

The optical zoom system 50 of the present disclosure differs from digital optical zoom system commonly used in digital photography cameras. Digital optical zoom systems use all of the pixels of the imaging sensor to perform zoom functions using the process known as image interpolation to increase the number of pixels in the image.

The optical zoom system 50 does not perform zoom functions by image interpolation. The optical zoom system 50 does not use all of the pixels of the imaging sensor 12, but uses a portion of the pixels (by either binning or subsampling). If during the performance of a zoom function, it is determined by the processor 62 and/or sensor control circuitry 14 that additional pixels are needed, the number of pixels used by the optical zoom system 50 is increased (by decreasing bin or subsample size). By increasing the number of pixels, the resolution of the image is increased. Accordingly, the image resolution is increased, without using the process of image interpolation.

The optical code reading system 200 of the present disclosure can be programmed for decoding an optical code according to several methodologies for reducing decode time, i.e., the time from when the optical code is imaged by the variable resolution imaging sensor 12 to the time it is decoded, in order to enable high-speed decoding.

One methodology according to the present disclosure entails programming circuitry associated with the imaging sensor 12, such as sensor control circuitry 14, or a processor, such as, for example, the processor 62 and/or the processing circuitry 16, for controlling the imaging sensor 12 for generating a low resolution image. The required or appropriate resolution for the outputted low resolution image can be determined based on one or more of the following parameters: the type of application the optical code reading system 200 is being used for, the ambient lighting, the distance to target, the speed of target (in case the target is moving), the angle between sensor 12 and target, etc.

The low resolution image generated by the imaging sensor 12 requires less time to be transferred to at least one processor, which may include the processor 62 and/or the processing circuitry 16, and/or a decoder 518, from the imaging sensor 12 for locating the target feature, such as a start and stop pattern of an optical code, since the bit size of the low resolution image generated by the imaging sensor 12 is significantly smaller than the bit size of a high resolution image capable of being generated by the variable resolution imaging sensor 12.

Once transferred to the at least one processor or decoder, the at least one processor or decoder attempts to extract the desired information from the optical code by decoding the optical code. If the resolution of the image is sufficient, the desired information can be successfully extracted by decoding the optical code. Accordingly, this methodology uses a low resolution image to accomplish the task of imaging and decoding the optical code. This methodology also saves time, because by transferring a low resolution image to the at least one processor or decoder, the decode time is significantly reduced. The decode time is reduced in the order of four as compared to prior art optical code reading systems.

However, sometimes the required image resolution is not known ahead of time. For such applications, according to the present disclosure, the processor associated with the optical code reading system 200, which can include the processing circuitry 16 and/or the processor 62, can be programmed for executing the algorithm illustrated by the flow chart shown by FIG. 3A for decoding an optical code and reducing the decode time. The algorithm is configured as a set of programmable instructions stored in a memory and capable of being executed by the processor and/or the sensor control circuitry 14.

At step 300, the imaging sensor 12 is controlled by a processor, which can include the processing circuitry 16 and/or processor 62, or the sensor control circuitry 14 for generating an image having a particular resolution, and preferably, the lowest, useful resolution that can be generated by the sensor 12. (The lowest, useful resolution can be defined by the application; e.g., the density of the bar codes being read.) The lowest resolution image is then outputted for use in locating a target feature, such as a bar code, by the processor at step 302. It is contemplated that the image generated is not the lowest resolution image that can be generated but an image which has a low resolution for providing a starting point in attempting to locate the target feature by the processor.

At step 304, the process attempts a simple decode of the located target feature. At step 306, a determination is made as to whether the bar code was successfully decoded in step 304. If yes, the result is reported to a user of the optical code reading system in step 308. If no, the process continues to step 310 where the low resolution image's pixels per module (PPM) is estimated. If the estimated PPM is sufficient to decode the target feature as determined at step 312, an attempt is made at step 314 to decode the target feature. If the estimated PPM is not sufficient to decode the target feature, the process continues to step 316.

If the attempted decode at step 314 is successful as determined at step 318, the result is reported to the user at step 308. If the attempted decode is not successful, the process continues to step 316. At step 316, a determination is made as to whether to continue with the decoding process, i.e., whether to generate and output a higher resolution image. If no, as determined, for example, by a system clock or based according to how many times the process has reached step 316, the process terminates at step 320. If at step 316, the decision is to continue with the decoding process, the process continues to step 322 where the higher resolution image is generated and outputted by the variable resolution imaging sensor 12. The process then repeats starting with step 302 for locating the target feature. It is preferred that the newly generated, higher resolution image is cropped such that the image is centered with respect to the location of the target feature.

It is necessary to determine at step 316 whether to continue with the process in order for the process to be able to move on to decode another optical code. This may be required in the case where the system 200 is used to image optical codes passing on a conveyor belt to prevent the optical code reading system 200 from “falling behind” in imaging and decoding the optical codes passing by.

The methodology described above attempts to determine at what resolution is the target feature adequately visible for decoding. Since low resolution images are generated and transmitted to the processor much faster than high resolution images, the amount of time expensed for determining an appropriate or desired low resolution for decoding the target feature is significantly less than the time capable of being expensed if a high resolution image is generated and transferred to the processor for decoding, even though with the methodology described herein multiple low resolution images may need to be generated and transferred to the processor before the target feature is decoded.

The methodology described above with reference to FIG. 3A can be modified into a two-stage resolution algorithm for performing a methodology as illustrated by the flow chart shown by FIG. 3B for the optical code reading system 200. The optical code reading system 200 includes a two-position focus system 202 with positions NEAR 204 and FAR 206 and the imaging sensor 12 being modified for delivering at least two image resolutions, HI_RESOLUTION (high resolution) and LOW_RESOLUTION (low resolution). The NEAR position 204 captures a larger image of the target and the FAR position 206 captures a smaller, cropped image of the target. In effect, this implements a 2× optical zoom system. The system 200 is also modified for capturing two images, HI_RES_IMAGE (high resolution image) and LOW_RES_IMAGE (low resolution image).

The two-stage resolution algorithm is performed by the processor of the optical code reading system 200, which can include the processing circuitry 16 and/or the processor 62, by executing a series of programmable instructions. The methodology decreases the decode time while improving the overall performance of the optical code reading system 200.

The methodology according to the present disclosure entails starting at step 400 in FIG. 3B and setting the focus position to NEAR and sensor resolution to LOW_RESOLUTION. At step 402, a full field of view (FOV) image is captured of the LOW_RES_IMAGE. At step 404, the LOW_RES_IMAGE is transferred to a memory of the optical code reading system, the focus position is set to FAR and sensor resolution is set to HI_RESOLUTION. These three action items are preferably performed simultaneously.

At step 406, the HI_RES_IMAGE is captured and a cropped image thereof centered with respect to the optical axis of the optical code reading system is transferred to the memory. At step 408, which is performed simultaneously with step 406 as mega step 409, the process retrieves the LOW_RES_IMAGE stored in the memory, and analyzes or processes the LOW_RES_IMAGE in an attempt to locate the target feature in the LOW_RES_IMAGE. At step 410, a determination is made as to whether the target feature in the LOW_RES_IMAGE was found. If the target feature was not found, the process continues to step 418.

If the target feature in the LOW_RES_IMAGE was found in step 410, the process in step 414 attempts to extract information or decode the target corresponding to the target feature found in the LOW_RES_IMAGE. If in step 414, the target is decoded or the information is extracted, the result is reported to a user of the optical code reading system in step 416 and the process terminates at step 412.

However, if in step 414 the information is not extracted or the target feature is not decoded due to the low resolution of the LOW_RES_IMAGE (or if the target feature in the low resolution image is not found at step 410), the process in step 418 locates the target feature in the HI_RES_IMAGE. The process in step 420 then attempts to extract information or decode the target corresponding to the target feature found in the HI_RES_IMAGE. Simultaneously with step 420, the focus position is set to NEAR and the sensor resolution is set to LOW_RESOLUTION in step 422. Steps 420 and 422 are performed simultaneously as mega step 423.

If information is extracted in step 420 or the target is decoded, the result is reported to the user of the optical code reading system in step 416 and the process terminates at step 412. However, if in step 420 the information is not extracted or the target is not decoded, the process proceeds to step 402 and is repeated until the information is extracted or the target is decoded, until a maximum number of iterations is reached, or until a predetermined amount of time as determined by the processor has lapsed.

As stated above, all of the methods described herein in accordance with the present disclosure for decoding an optical code are performed by the processor, which may include processing circuitry 16 and/or the processor 62, of the optical code reading system 200. The processor executes a series of programmable instructions for performing the described methods. The series of programmable instructions can be stored within a memory of the processor, a memory of the optical code reading system 200, or on a computer-readable medium, such as a CD-ROM, floppy disc, hard drive, etc.

An exemplary optical code reading system 200 having features described herein is schematically illustrated by FIG. 4 and includes an imaging device, such as a bar code reader, designated generally by reference numeral 500. The imaging device 500 houses the variable resolution imaging sensor 12 described above and packaged in the form of an imaging engine 502, an illumination source 504 having at least one LED or other light generating device, an aiming source 506 having a light source for aiming at an optical code (e.g., a bar code) or target to be imaged, sensor control circuitry 14, processing circuitry 16, control circuitry 22, processor 62, range finder system 64, and communication circuitry 508 interfaced with cable 510 for non-wirelessly transmitting signals to a terminal 512, such as a point-of-sale terminal. Alternatively, the optical code reading system 200 may be designed for wireless operation.

The imaging engine 502 is configured and dimensioned for fitting within a predetermined form factor 514 of the imaging device 500, such as the SE1200 form factor developed by Symbol Technologies, Inc., and includes the two-position focus system 202 with positions NEAR 204 and FAR 206. The processing circuitry 16, control circuitry 22 and/or the processor 62 control the operation of the imaging device 500, such as the auto-exposure system 10, the optical zoom system 50, the means for actuating an image and decode process upon a user pressing a trigger button 516, controlling the illumination source 504, the aiming source 506 and the communication circuitry 508, for operating the imaging device 500 in a particular imaging mode, such as a continuous imaging mode, and for executing a set of programmable instructions for decoding the imaged optical code or target or controlling operation of the decoder 518 for decoding the imaged optical code or target. The decoder 518 can be external to the processing circuitry 16 or the processor 62, as shown by FIG. 4, or resident within the processing circuitry 16 or the processor 62.

The processing circuitry 16, the control circuitry 22 and/or the processor 62 further include a memory for storing pixel output data and other data, such as the sets of programmable instructions for performing the high-speed decoding methods described herein. The processing circuitry 16, the control circuitry 22 and/or the processor 62 further determine an imaging resolution for imaging the optical code and control the variable resolution imaging sensor 12 either directly or via the sensor control circuitry 14 for imaging the optical code according to the determined imaging resolution.

The communication circuitry 508 outputs data indicative of the decoded and/or processed optical code or target to an external computing device, such as terminal 512, and receives data, such as data for changing at least one operational parameter of the imaging device 500 as known in the art. The operational parameters can also be changed by imaging an optical code or target corresponding to at least one operational parameter and decoding and/or processing the imaged optical code or target, and subsequently changing the at least one operational parameter indicative of the decoded and/or processed optical code or target.

The described embodiments of the present disclosure are intended to be illustrative rather than restrictive, and are not intended to represent every embodiment of the present disclosure. Various modifications and variations can be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the disclosure as set forth in the following claims both literally and in equivalents recognized in law.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification235/454, 348/E05.035, 348/E03.02, 235/462.24
International ClassificationG03B7/08, G06K7/10
Cooperative ClassificationH04N3/1562, H04N5/2351, G06K7/10722
European ClassificationG06K7/10S4D, H04N3/15E4, H04N5/235B
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 20, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: SYMBOL TECHNOLOGIES, INC., NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:JOSEPH, EUGENE;CARLSON, BRAD;REEL/FRAME:016096/0898
Effective date: 20041122