Making a 3D camera easier to use

Purdue making 3D cameras easier to use
A Purdue research team has created technology to make 3D cameras easier to use. (Purdue University)

The concept of making a 3D camera as easy to use as one found on a smartphone has driven the research of a Purdue University professor. Song Zhang, a professor of mechanical engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering, is creating 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 in article on Purdue University’s website. “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 techniques, the manufacturer must precisely calibrate the projector, camera focal length, and other parameters, and the user must manually adjust the optimal sensor exposure time. Besides training a user to learn how to properly operate the camera, there’s also complicated recalibration processes by the manufacturer if the camera is accidentally disturbed.  

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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 to generate 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.

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