Current commercial and freely available grabbing libraries are tightly coupled to operating systems and/or imaging hardware. Moreover, they usually do not support any kind of distributed camera-systems.
This forces developers to either reimplement significant parts of the application or to come up with elaborate abstraction for the grabbing, should the underlying operating system, hardware (e.g. changing from analog PAL sources to IIDC cameras) or distribution model (e.g. adding remote intelligent cameras, which are capable of image processing themselves)change. In this paper we describe `libugrab', a versatile grabbing library designed to provide a flexible abstraction of the grabbing process. The main advantages of `libugrab' over similar libraries are the following: open source license, cross-platform availability, network transparency, support for both push and pull grabbing models, built-in support for image-processing via callbacks. The design especially facilitates rapid prototyping of distributed vision systems, which we demonstrate by several examples.