New Laser Imaging Chip can Transform a Phone into a 3D Scanner

Published By : 08 Apr 2015 | Published By : QYRESEARCH

Smartphones are capable of doing an okay job of evaluating how far away an object is while taking a photo. However, the image itself is still considered as a flat plain of pixels.

A team at Caltech in a research has created a new imaging chip which can be incorporated into phones to capture a full 3 dimensional view of an object that can be then used to generate a file suitable for 3D printing. This technology is called NCI, nanophotonic coherent imager. It is so small that it can be fit inside the present smartphone’s without any problems.

Already 3D imaging devices exist in the market. However, Google’s Project Tango shows that developer devices are capable of this and rely on several cameras which are built entirely around the position and depth sensing. This NCI chip can be the next thing included in your phone. However, the key to making this chip work is that every pixel on the NCI performs as an independent interferometer.

An interferometer is an optical instrument which uses interference of light rays to evaluate distance. Hence, the NCI pixels posses both distance and intensity information. Also, the NCI employs LIDAR technology for scanning its targets. This technology is already widely used in range finding applications such as Google’s self driving cars.

However, the way this system is used is a bit different. The object which needs to be imaged is illuminated using a small array of LIDAR emitter. The array is capable of sweeping across an object and covering several parts of the object without moving the NCI.
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