Electronic Design

3D Imaging: You've Just Got To See It

We’re used to seeing in 3D. Computer imaging has taken a while to catch up. Several developments are coming together, from multicore processors to high-resolution cameras to fast refresh displays, to make 3D imaging happen.

3D imaging likes parallelism. This opens up opportunities for using graphics processing units (GPUs) that are readily available (see “What Will You Do With 1 TFLOPS Of Double-Precision Power?” at www.electronicdesign.com, ED Online 19324). Multicore CPUs can also improve 3D performance.

3D IMAGING
Image recognition is becoming increasingly important for the robotic assembly line. Most of today’s imaging systems use a 2D approach to simplify the problem.

Nuvation’s demo of a robot that could play air hockey at the 2008 Freescale Technology Forum used images from a camera mounted above the table for a 2D view to control the robotic arm defending its goal. It also used an 8-bit Freescale Flexis AC microcontroller to take it easy on human players and a 32-bit version when it raised its game.

Moving to 3D takes significantly more processing power. It often helps to have a pair of cameras to do the job. Of course, this increases the amount of information and the complexity of the analysis.

Some 3D advances are showing up through novel uses of other technology. ViaLUX’s Z-Snapper 3D camera takes advantage of Texas Instruments’ DLP technology, using TI’s digital micromirror device (DMD).

The Z-Snapper generates 3D surface contour data in real time. It uses a technique based on fringe projection methodology combined with phase measuring algorithms. A series of patterns is projected on the target using an LED-based DMD system. This approach allowed ViaLUX to create a battery-powered solution. Prior approaches used an ultra-high-performance (UHP) arc lamp.

3D PLAYBACK
DLPs are being used in 3D playback as well. Samsung’s 120-MHz Series 7 LCD and DLP displays ship with built-in 3D support that uses LCD shutter glasses to alternately present images to the viewer’s left and right eye.

This technique has been around for a while, usually with CRT displays with a high refresh rate. Now, Viewsonic’s 22-in. VX2265wm can hit the target with a 1680-by-1050 resolution and 120-Hz refresh rate (see the figure). Viewsonic demonstrated it at NVision 08 using NVidia’s GeForce 3D Stereo technology.

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