Making 3D Cameras Easier to Use

On the right is a 3D image with auto-exposure control. A Purdue team has created technology to make 3D cameras easier to use. (Image provided)

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 with more than two decades of experience in the 3D imaging field, 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. (Source: Purdue U.)

Reference: X. Hu et al.: Autofocusing method for high-resolution three-dimensional profilometry, Opt. Lett. 45, 375 (2020); DOI: 10.1364/OL.382431

Link: School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA

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