At Centeye, we've been developing optical flow / vision sensors and integrating them on RC aircraft test beds for years now. Check out our website for details if you wish. In 2001 we obtained altitude hold on a fixed-wing aircraft (a foam Wingo, remember those?) using an early "Ladybug" sensor, and later in 2003 basic obstacle avoidance using a scratch-built aircraft. Some of this work was described in a Wired Online article way back in 2004. Ever since way back then many people have expressed an interest in these sensors.
Now, partially due to our participation in the Harvard RoboBee project and partially from our own funds, we are in a position to develop a portfolio of academic/experimentalist/consumer class sensors. The current batch of silicon vision sensors (yes- we design our own silicon!) is currently in fabrication, and should be finished sometime in February.
I would like to find out whether people here would be interested in such sensors. More important, what would you like? I know, it is a very broad question, but I would like to have this discussion.
For our first version, I am envisioning a true minimalist design using one of our imagers and an Atmel AVR for processing. We could probably make the whole thing weigh less then a gram. If fully functional, the sensor will operate off a single LiPo battery- the vision sensor will have it's own integrated linear regulator. The AVR itself can be programmed with different firmware implement a different sensor using the same piece of hardware. I envision this being useful for air vehicles, ground vehicles, and non-robotic uses as well (sensor networks? home automation?)
The interface will likely be via I2C or SPI- I am partial to I2C because it allows multiple sensors to be hooked up on the same four-wire bus (ground, power, clock, data) but SPI is faster.
I'll start with this. I have more thoughts which I'll add on based on interest- I'm hoping all of you wear me out here!