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Miniature CMOS camera ideal for motion detection applications.

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft : 25 October, 2007  (New Product)
A small CMOS camera uses invisible laser pulses to determine 3D shape and motion of objects applicable to many security and monitoring requirements.
A small low-priced 3-D CMOS camera is set to capture the attention of the
security technology market: It is equally suitable for blind-spot monitoring
in cars and for controlling access to buildings. The camera's core component
is a high-performance light sensor.

Modern vehicle electronics can prevent many a traffic accident, but the
systems are still not perfect. Problems are caused particularly by traffic
coming from the sides. Objects or pedestrians approaching rapidly from the
side have so far been almost impossible to detect. A small, robust and above
all low-priced camera could make all the difference. Developed at the
Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS in
Duisburg, the device emits a rapid series of short laser flashes that are
invisible to the human eye. From the reflected light signals, the camera
determines not only how far away an object is, but even its
three-dimensional shape. Rays of light that encounter protruding areas are
reflected back sooner than those that encounter lower-lying areas. Precision
control of the camera aperture separates these light signals and
subsequently uses them to create a 3-D image. The observation of lateral
traffic is only one possible application scenario. The camera system can
also be employed for robotic workplaces or for controlling access to

The researchers' goal was to develop a low-cost device from standard
components - for instance by using off-the-shelf components for the camera
lenses and the laser diodes. The core component of the camera is the CMOS
chip developed by the researchers themselves, which transforms light signals
into electrical impulses. The chip can be manufactured at low cost in a
standard process. 'The challenge we faced was to create a chip that would
reliably interpret light signals in any situation,' says project manager
Werner Brockherde. 'For example, the electronics cuts out interfering
background light from its calculation by opening the aperture for one
millionth of a second and measuring the natural ambient light.' Depending
how far away an object is, a greater or lesser amount of reflected light
enters the camera. The CMOS chip therefore has to be capable of analyzing
extremely bright images as well as very dark ones. The researchers have
developed special algorithms to achieve this high level of dynamic

The 3-D CMOS camera will be on show at the VISION 2007 trade fair in
Stuttgart on November 6 - 8 (Hall 4, stand C56). Brockherde is confident
that it will be launched on the market for the first automotive applications
in about five years' time - perhaps as an alternative to radar proximity
sensors, which are relatively expensive, or for blind-spot monitoring.
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