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2.0 Blog - Our Biggest Release Yet

Liam Cadigan

We’re excited to bring you inspectAR 2.0 the next phase in our journey to accelerate electronics lab work. Whether you’re an electronics hobbyist, professional engineer, firmware developer, manager, or technician our latest release will give you the tools and information you need to speed up your latest electronics project.

We’ve made some key improvements to the inspectAR tool in the key areas that you, our users asked for.

New and Improved AR Tracking

We’ve made a huge upgrade to the algorithm we used to track AR overlays onto the board. The calibration process is still extremely similar to what we had before, you take a picture of the front and back of the board, confirm its outline to the tool and then you’re good to go. Once you enter the AR view of your board you’ll start to see much more robust tracking and some enhanced camera features. 

Tracking

The new tracking should be more robust to variance in lighting, shadows, and rotation than we were seeing before. Typically we recommend re-calibrating once around 20-30% of your board’s area has changed, whether that is due to ongoing board assembly, lighting, or burn marks in the event magic smoke is made.

As you can see in the gif below, once your board has been recalibrated the new tracking technology provides excellent alignment (even on a 0.4mm pitch QFN like that board has). The overlays will stay aligned even as you rotate the board to a high angle of rotation.


Image Stabilization

2.0 Brings a number of new camera control features to the table. We’re really excited about our new stabilization feature. Prior users may have noticed that while zooming and panning around the board that the overlays can start to shake, or ‘jitter’ as an AR developer might say. Our new AR has a powerful anti-jitter algorithm that stops the overlays from shaking and puts them back in their place. The drawback of using our anti-jitter algorithm (and why you might not always want to have it enabled) is that there will be some noticeable latency between movement of the board and movement of the overlays. This is pretty easy to overcome.


Camera Zoom, Freeze Zoom, and Stretch Zoom

We offer multiple methods of zooming in inspectAR. Prior users of the tool will already be familiar with Camera Zoom and Freeze Zoom, they are core features of the tool.

Camera Zoom happens when you scroll the mouse wheel on desktop or tweeze your fingers on mobile. When you do this we request a more zoomed in image from the camera your device is using. In some situations, using camera zoom too much will mean that our AR tracking algorithm does not get a large enough picture of the board to apply overlays to. In this case, you can use either stretch zoom or freeze zoom to see a closer picture of the board while maintaining AR tracking.

High resolution image and overlays using camera zoom


Freeze Zoom happens whenever camera zoom normally would while ‘Freeze Mode’ is activated. Our Freeze Mode feature allows you to get all the benefits of AR tracking without having to place the circuit board physically beneath a camera. This is ideal for mobile users who need to free up a hand to do some work, or for situations where you need to physically put the board under a different piece of equipment to do work on it, like if you were using a hot air station. Unlike camera zoom, when you zoom during freeze mode you start to lose some resolution from your image. This is because we aren’t asking the camera to send back a higher resolution image, we’re just stretching an existing static image. This behaviour is no different than if you expand an image by dragging its corner in any document editor.

Lower resolution image using freeze zoom



Stretch Zoom is identical to Freeze Zoom, except it works on a live video feed. This is an extremely powerful feature -- it allows you to continue zooming when you start to lose AR tracking due to Camera Zoom. The only drawback is that the more stretch zoom you use, the less resolution is in the image which you are seeing. 

Automatic and Manual Focus

A blurry image can cause you to lose AR tracking, and even worse you won’t be able to see your board clearly. inspectAR comes with two focus modes: automatic and manual.

Automatic Focus directly leverages your camera's focusing algorithm to keep the board in focus even if it moves to a new perspective or focal plane. Some cameras are better at doing this than others, sometimes your autofocus algorithm will get repeatedly triggered making it difficult to bring the board in focus.



Manual Focus is a custom focusing algorithm we wrote with circuit boards in mind. Our manual focus algorithm will not get confused by glare on the solder mask, or a tall component like autofocus will. The reason we call it manual focus is that you will need to trigger it yourself whenever you notice the board go out of focus by pressing the crosshair icon. 


New User Interface

We’ve introduced a brand new user interface for inspectAR 2.0 based on the feedback of our prior users. Now you can access all the features of inspectAR via a side toolbar on the left of the screen, and a toolbar on the top of the screen. Most of the info we previously displayed has migrated into 3 free floating, resizable windows which you can turn on and off at any time. You can find interesting information in each of the 3 windows:

Active Overlays

The active overlays window helps you to manage the overlays you are seeing on your board. You can hide and delete overlays as well as globally change layer colours and overlay transparency from this window


Information 

The information window gives you information about the overlays you are seeing. From here you can request part information, dynamically edit an overlay, and browse connected nets and components from 3 tabs.


Add Overlays & Search

The add overlays window is a hybrid of the search menu which prior inspectAR users would be familiar with. You can search for anything on your board here and refine it with a number of advanced filters. Overlays which you add here will appear in the active overlays window where they can be selected in the information window for further analysis. Usefully, you can select multiple overlays at once and either add them as a batch or add them individually. Adding them as a batch will keep your active overlays windows less crowded, however you will not be able to individually select them to view in the information pane, to do that, use ‘add individually’. If you get into a situation where you need to see an overlay from your batch in the information window don’t panic! You can still add it individually again to see it in the information window.

We have a full tutorial explaining out new UI right here.


New File Types

You can now try your own boards, for free, with inspectAR! Free and pro users can now upload KiCAD and Eagle projects with no per-project charge. There is no limit on board area or layer count. We have a full set of tutorials to help you get up and running creating projects here. For Pro users, Altium, Cadence, Mentor, Zuken and any EDA which supports IPC2581 cost $99 each. However, you change your BOM unlimited times per project, meaning you won’t be charged for minor revisions where the PCB artwork stays the same but you decide to use a 10kohm resistor instead of a 15kohm.



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