Saturday, November 08, 2008

3D Imagers Landscape

It came to my attention there is a new 3D imaging startup in Switzerland, called Mesa Imaging. The company was founded in 2006 as a technology spin-out from CSEM (Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique). The imager gets 3D information using time-of-flight distance measurement principle. Infrared light from the camera's internal lighting source is reflected by objects in the scene and travels back to the camera, where its precise time of arrival is measured independently by each of the sensor pixels. A unique CCD/CMOS imager is in the heart of the camera. The sensor has a fast electronic gate and CCD-like storage area to achieve precise time measurements.

With Mesa Imaging arrival, there are 4 start-ups dealing with time-of-flight imaging. The 3 others are 3DV, Canesta and PMD. Also, Panasonic develops a CCD for 3D sensing.

The differences between all these approaches look quite subtle to me. All talk about necessity of background light suppression and all claim to solve this problem. All companies tell they are cheap enough for the mass market. I hope the 3D time of flight market is big enough to accommodate all five of them.

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