Smartphone cameras have evolved greatly in the past few years and they show no signs of stopping anytime soon. It’s likely your next smartphone could incorporate a camera capable of seeing in 3D, revolutionizing the way we see the world through the camera lens.
Researchers at Stanford University have created a new approach that enables standard image sensors to capture light in three dimensions. The technique would let cameras measure the distance to objects and create 3D imaging widely adopted in smartphones.
A Fresh Approach To Lidar Sensor
It’s possible to measure the distance between objects with light, but only with hefty light detection and ranging (lidar) systems. Lidar makes use of a laser that shoots at objects and measures the light that bounces back from that object.
The system is capable of determining how far the object is, how fast it’s traveling, whether it is coming close or moving further away, and whether the paths of two moving objects will intersect.
The Stanford researchers’ new approach could allow for megapixel-resolution lidar — something that’s not possible currently. Higher resolution would allow the sensor to identify objects from a higher range.
The team used a phenomenon called acoustic resonance, where they used a wafer of lithium niobate — a transparent crystal that is known for its optical properties — coated with two see-through electrodes.
A Cheaper Lidar Solution
This system could become a cheaper alternative to lidar that could be used in delivery drones, space rovers, and other applications. The modulator’s design is integrated into a system that leverages off-the-shelf cameras seen on smartphones and DSLRs.
Apple’s iPhone 13 series comes equipped with lidar and is claimed to offer better low-light focus and night portrait mode effects. The Stanford researchers said their lidar solution is way cheaper to implement compared to Apple’s solution and could be installed on a wider range of smartphones.
Lidar scanning devices come in handy to determine the depth of a photo. By moving the camera around the object, the distance from multiple angles can be measured, and create a full 3D model.
Revolutionizing Smartphone Photography
Researchers from MIT also recently developed ultra low power radars that make use of radar tech to detect distances to moving objects. This technology could pave the way for a new kind of camera that won’t be sensitive to light issues.
The wide adoption of 3D technology could revolutionize photography. It will be great for remote working, learning, and for safe distances during medical outbreaks, as well as for diagnosing functions in healthcare.
The tech could also help in providing detailed analytics and enhancements across several industries. The 3D tech can also impact the fitness, wellness, and sports areas. It could help athletes minimize performance-related injuries.
Besides, having a 3D camera on a smartphone will also make it more secure, as all the face-based security on phones depends on the quality of the camera behind it. Apple’s Face ID for example, which many use to gain access to sensitive accounts, is backed by the company’s TrueDepth camera system.
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