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Sensors, Vision

Technologies developed to make 3D cameras easier to use

A Purdue University professor who has developed new technologies aimed at making 3D cameras easier to use by compressing 3D camera files and automating focus and exposure settings.

By Chris Adam March 31, 2020
On the right is a 3D image with auto-exposure control. A Purdue team has created technology to make 3D cameras easier to use. Courtesy: Purdue University

A 3D camera should be as easy to use as one found on a smartphone. That is the guiding principle for a Purdue University professor who has developed new technologies aimed at making 3D cameras easier to use.

Song Zhang, a professor of mechanical engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering, led a team to create technologies to help compress 3D camera files and automate focus and exposure settings.

“We have come a long way with high-end 3D camera technology,” Zhang said. “But using the technology still almost always requires a great deal of training. We want to create technologies to make 3D cameras easier to use for everyone from tourists to doctors to video producers.”

To obtain the best image with current high-end 3D cameras based on structured light technique, the manufacturer must conduct precise projector and camera focal length and other parameters calibration, and the user must manually adjust the optimal sensor exposure time. This leads to a training requirement for a user to properly operate the camera, and often involves complicated recalibration processes by the manufacturer if the camera is accidentally disturbed.

Zhang’s team has automated the process of profilometry by developing algorithms to rapidly determine the optimal exposure after understanding the intrinsic constant response function of the sensor. The researchers also devised a method of generating highly accurate 3D images using an autofocusing feature on electronically tunable lenses.

“I believe 3D camera technology has the ability to have an even greater impact on the field than 2D camera technology ever has, assuming it is easy enough for users,” Zhang said.

– Edited by Chris Vavra, associate editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, cvavra@cfemedia.com. See more Control Engineering sensor and vision stories.


Chris Adam
Author Bio: Chris Adam, Purdue University