A matter of perception

Silicon Valley start-up Canesta has introduced what it is calling the world’s first ‘electronic perception’ technology.

In an announcement that could have impact in a wide number of products and markets over the long term, Silicon Valley start-up Canesta has introduced what it is calling the world’s first ‘electronic perception’ technology.

Electronic perception technology is a unique, inexpensive, real-time 3-D imaging capability that will enable machines and electronic devices to perceive nearby objects and their movements in three dimensions.

The heart of Canesta’s technology, as revealed in a recently issued US patent, is a small, moving-image sensor and software that ‘sees’ the environment in 3D contours, rather than the flat, 2D images historically provided by video camera chips.

Electronic perception technology has two principal components. First are the 3D electronic perception sensor chips, and second, proprietary image processing software embedded in the chips.

In a manner similar to RADAR, where the range to a remote object is calculated by timing how long it takes for an electronic burst of radio waves to echo back from that object, the chips described in Canesta’s patent time a burst of sub-visual light reflecting off each feature in the image. The image and distance information is then handed off to an on-chip processor running Canesta’s proprietary imaging software that further refines the 3D representation before sending it off chip for processing. The chips do this repeatedly, generating over 50 frames of 3D information per second.

Since Canesta’s software starts with a 3D ‘contour-map’ view of the world, provided directly by the hardware, the company claims that it has a substantial advantage over classical image processing software that struggles to construct 3D representations using complex mathematics, and using images from multiple cameras or points of view.

This significant reduction in complexity makes it possible to embed the application-independent processing software directly into the chips themselves so they may be used in the most modestly-priced, and even pocket-sized, electronic devices.

More detailed information about specific chips, software, and applications will be made available later in the year.

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