A new camera sensor could transform a smartphone into a three-dimensional scanner. Researchers from California Institute of Technology recently developed a tiny high-resolution 3D imager that would easily fit in a phone-size device.

This cheap but accurate nanophotonic coherent imager utilizes a silicon chip just under a square millimeter in size. The NCI offers the highest depth measurement accuracy of any similar device.

New Camera Sensor Could Transform Phone Into 3D Scanner

 

Exciting horizon for mobile technology

CIT Thomas G. Meyers Professor Ali Hajimiri explained the high quality and small size would contribute to a major reduction in costs. The 3-D imager will also enable thousands of new uses when placed in devices such as smartphones. These new chips use an established ranging and detection technology called LIDAR. This technology is based on scanning beams.

The NCI proof of concept uses 16 coherent pixels, and the 3D images produced can only be 16 pixels in a given instance. Hajimiri added that the current array of 16 pixels could be scaled up to hundred of thousands. The researchers also discovered a method for imaging larger objects by imaging the 4×4 pixel section. It then moves the object in four-pixel increments to image the next section. This method allowed the team to use a device to scan and create a three-dimensional image of the front face of a coin.

Camera sensor technology offers exciting possibilities

The imager feature could easily apply to a large range of applications from precise 3D scanning to helping driverless cars avoid car crashes.

This new camera sensor technology offers the potential to transform smartphone and other mobile technologies. It already is featured in other tech gadgets such as robots and self-driving cars.  The smartphone has become a lifeline for many people who use it on an everyday basis.  The researchers say the possibilities of this new technology could redefine the smartphone as we know it.