VisualApplets Expert

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With the extension of VisualApplets Expert, Silicon Software GmbH has made numerous functions available for experienced image processing users. VisualApplets is the graphical development environment for individual FPGA programming of image processing applications. With over 200 operators implemented in libraries, developers have new options in “Expert” to design and test applications, allowing import of existing hardware code (VHDL and Verilog), design debugging in real runtime, and continuous adaptation of parameters in hierarchical structures.

VisualApplets Expert includes three new function areas: the Custom Library with the option to generate one’s own operators and use them in the VisualApplets design, as well as Debugging and Parameters Libraries. These put users in the position to realize their own image processing applications with little effort and to implement them in FPGA devices — on frame grabbers as well as embedded in cameras and vision sensors.

Use Foreign FPGA Hardware Code as an Operator

The Custom Operator functionality permits users to continue using their image processing modules (VHDL libraries), programmed in VHDL or Verilog, in VisualApplets as operators, thus preserving their preliminary work. In so doing, they continue to use their expertise and existing hardware code in programming FPGAs, for example, to integrate an existing IP core into new applications in just a few steps, drastically reducing their products’ time to market.

The image processing modules are inserted as pre-synthesized IP core netlists in VisualApplets. Each IP core generates one operator. Following a GUI-driven integration procedure, these operators function as generic VisualApplets operators, exploiting all the advantages of the VisualApplets workflow including high-level simulation, resource consumption, and bandwidth calculation.

Debugging in Real Runtime

The Debugging Library operators analyze both application designs in real runtime and custom operators still in development for programming errors, deadlocks and bandwidth problems, and improve their stability. The analysis includes evaluation of new custom operators’ influence on designs via image analysis, image statistics, stream analysis, image flow control, and monitoring, among others. During design synthesis, users can execute the necessary steps on their own. During debugging, the design remains unchanged and genuine, not simulated, image data is dispensed. Using the “Scope” operator, for example, grayscale images can be analyzed based on their signal flow. The operator scans input image lines in a manner similar to an oscilloscope and produces a 2D signal waveform for each image channel.

Continually Maintaining Parameters in the Design

The Parameters Library operators allow programmers to change even parameters embedded deep within hierarchical design structures. Thus, changes users make to design parameters, such as resolution, are automatically, continually updated during runtime, even in protected hierarchical boxes. Labor-intensive and error-prone manual parameter changes to the entire design or the need for additional software are eliminated.

“VisualApplets Expert is geared toward users with FPGA and VHDL skills who want to create demanding designs on their own using the VisualApplets graphical programming environment. Customers pay according to need for those extensions that they want to use,” said Dr. Klaus-Henning Noffz, Managing Director of Silicon Software.