The 3D ToF technology market remains hot, and system-level solutions have detonated a new wave of industry applications

With the development of digital imaging technology, camera as a sensor has been widely studied. In the past year or so, ToF technology has frequently appeared on various mobile phone products as the highlight of taking pictures. From vivo NEX to Honor V20, from depth of field measurement to motion capture, with the blessing of ToF technology, smart phones can take better blurred photos, and can be transformed into somatosensory game machines… As one of the three mainstream solutions in the field of 3D depth vision First, in addition to being applied to mobile phones, ToF technology has also begun to show its talents in many fields such as VR/AR gesture interaction, automotive Electronic ADAS, security monitoring, and new retail, and its application prospects are very broad.

With the development of digital imaging technology, camera as a sensor has been widely studied. In the past year or so, ToF technology has frequently appeared on various mobile phone products as the highlight of taking pictures. From vivo NEX to Honor V20, from depth of field measurement to motion capture, with the blessing of ToF technology, smart phones can take better blurred photos, and can be transformed into somatosensory game machines… As one of the three mainstream solutions in the field of 3D depth vision First, in addition to being applied to mobile phones, ToF technology has also begun to show its talents in many fields such as VR/AR gesture interaction, automotive electronic ADAS, security monitoring, and new retail, and its application prospects are very broad.

“This technology is basically similar to the principle of 3D laser sensor, except that the 3D laser sensor scans point by point, while the ToF camera obtains the depth information of the entire image at the same time.” Li Jia, ADI System Application Engineering Manager, shared ADI 3D depth detection The technology pointed out, “In simple terms, the popular explanation is that the ToF transmitter emits a whole flat ‘light wall’, and the light wall hits the surface of the measured object and reflects back, and brings back depth information.” The ToF transmitter emits laser light to the object, and then a receiver receives the reflected laser light. According to the laser round-trip time and its fixed flight speed, the distance between this point on the object surface and the ToF camera is calculated.

The 3D ToF technology market remains hot, and system-level solutions have detonated a new wave of industry applications

Figure 1. The distance of an object can be obtained using ToF technology

The outbreak of the demand side increases the popularity of the ToF market

With the development of technologies and markets such as somatosensory interaction and control, 3D object recognition and perception, intelligent environment perception, and dynamic map construction, major application scenarios have begun to generate increasing interest and growing demand for 3D vision and recognition technology. Take the two largest application fields at this stage as an example: on the one hand, as smartphones enter the stock era, the strong demand for deep camera technology from micro-innovation, coupled with the continuous changes in the interaction methods of smartphones, are promoting the rapid development of the global ToF market. Expansion; on the other hand, in the field of automotive electronics, the trend of automotive intelligence represented by the continuous increase in the penetration rate of ADAS is also accelerating its evolution, and as the most mainstream solution in the field of depth ranging sensors such as lidar and smart cameras, the ToF market is also are continuing to benefit.

In terms of technology, compared with the other two solutions of 3D depth vision, the advantages of the ADI ToF solution in practical applications are self-evident. For example, post-processing is not required when calculating the depth of field after the image is captured, which can avoid delays and save the costs associated with using a powerful post-processing system. Moreover, the ToF ranging scale is flexible, and in most cases, it only needs to change the intensity of the light source, the optical field of view, and the pulse frequency of the transmitter. Due to its multiple advantages of being less susceptible to external light interference, small size, fast response speed and high recognition accuracy, ToF has increasingly become the preferred technical solution for 3D vision in both mobile and vehicle applications.

The 3D ToF technology market remains hot, and system-level solutions have detonated a new wave of industry applications

Figure 2. Comparison of mainstream 3D vision solutions

Li Jia also fully shared the breakthrough ToF technology solutions developed by ADI, from industrial automation, intelligent buildings to automotive applications, etc., to comprehensively promote the application development of smart Internet of Things innovation. “The reason why ADI’s ToF technology has attracted attention is that this technology can achieve VGA image resolution and accuracy, and at the same time, it has lower power consumption and footprint, and depth data can effectively increase image recognition and reach objects. The accuracy of judgment.” Li Jia broke the key in one sentence.

The combination of professional and consumer markets will boost the continuous benefit of ToF technology

From the perspective of consumer-level application scenarios, with the emergence of more and more smart phone rear depth camera functions, coupled with gesture interaction and environmental positioning perception gradually become the standard of new smart hardware such as VR/AR, the consumer-level field in the next few years. The ToF application and market of China will undoubtedly show a blowout trend.

Compared with some professional fields, the performance challenges faced by the rear camera of mobile phones, VR/AR gesture interaction, environmental measurement and other applications are usually less difficult at the technical level, and the focus is mainly on low cost, specifications, etc. In terms of size and power consumption, the requirements for measurement speed, life and resolution are not strong. But for professional-level scenarios such as automotive, industrial, etc., the design of ToF sensing systems requires not only a balance between accuracy, range, response time, resolution, cost, power consumption, and available packaging requirements. Moreover, for various uncontrollable factors in different actual situations, it is also necessary to carry out some customized redundant designs for the flexibility and anti-interference of the sensing system, such as adding some highly reliable filtering and anti-interference. Interfere with devices and modules, and load relevant software algorithms to ensure that the system has sufficient capacity to deal with different types of emergencies.

Taking the automotive application field as an example, the current parking sensors on the market can only sense whether there are obstacles, and even some “stature” short obstacles cannot meet the requirements of the sensing range. The reversing system using ToF technology can detect multiple pedestrians or obstacles at different distances at the same time. When a pedestrian or obstacle is detected approaching, even if it is a tree branch on the roof of the blind spot, it can be developed with images after processing by software. Or sound warning distance, to further assist the driver to know the relevant road conditions behind the car.

The ToF module developed by ADI combines the image sensor and the VGA ToF sensor module with the built-in image processor solution, which has a better detection angle than traditional sonic detection, and can more accurately measure the distance between the object and the car. Therefore, it can provide a wider range of collision detection and prevention for applications such as car reversing systems, door opening protection systems, parking assist systems and blind spot detection.

The 3D ToF technology market remains hot, and system-level solutions have detonated a new wave of industry applications

Figure 3. When a pedestrian or an obstacle is detected approaching, ADI’s ToF module can Display the size and relative distance of the obstacle as a video, as well as a sound warning.

At the same time, in the field of intelligent cockpit, ADI also provides a series of advanced human-machine interaction (HMI) and driver status detection advanced technical solutions, among which 3D face recognition using industry-leading vehicle-grade VGA resolution ToF technology has strong resistance to The features of light and high resolution can realize face recognition and complex gesture recognition.

In fact, ToF technology not only completes the 3D depth photography of objects, but also brings visual effects to the robot, so that it can have a sense of direction like a human being. When it comes to cooperation between humans and robots, safety is always the primary issue to consider, especially when robots are in a crowded work environment, they must be able to identify human and machine and machine actions, and respond quickly to avoid Avoid injury. “All kinds of robots in automated factories need to avoid obstacles autonomously. If lidar is used to solve the problem, the cost will need to increase by tens of thousands of yuan. Using the dual-camera solution requires a lot of calculations and the adjustment of the precise position of the dual-camera, and ToF has become a The most cost-effective choice to solve the above problems.” Li Jia said.

ADI provides a variety of flexible solutions for ToF technology, ranging from hardware chips to algorithms attached to hardware chips. Its ToF electronic fence solution can set up a virtual safety protection wall. With the ToF signal processor ADDI9033 and infrared light sensing components, Using components with ToF ranging technology, it can be applied to the Virtual Wall (virtual fence) solution for safety protection in industrial automation. Using the depth data of ToF, ADI’s solution can also effectively increase the recognition of images, achieve the accuracy of object judgment, provide machine vision that was not available in previous machines, and avoid the defects of lidar and dual-camera solutions.

The 3D ToF technology market remains hot, and system-level solutions have detonated a new wave of industry applications

Figure 4. ADI’s ToF electronic fence, a safety protection solution that can be applied to many robotic arms

CCD ToF front-end chip ADDI903x highlights the advantages of system-level ToF solutions

Every solution has its core device, ADI’s ToF solution is no exception, its CCD ToF front-end chip ADDI903x series is one of the core devices of its ToF solution, this series of products can support CCD infrared light ToF sensor, resolution Up to 640×480. ADDI903x can convert image signals into digital signals, and provide a high-precision pulse time controller. The closed-loop design makes the pulse width controlled by the laser diode more accurate, and thus more accurate depth data can be obtained.

The 3D ToF technology market remains hot, and system-level solutions have detonated a new wave of industry applications

Figure 5. Functions provided by the ADDI903x CCD ToF front-end chip from Analog Devices

The ToF technology solution centered on the sensor and front-end chip ADDI903x has ultra-high frame rate and real-time performance. Compared with the point-by-point scanning of 3D laser sensors, it can quickly and accurately obtain the depth information of the overall image. In other 3D technologies, the calculation of distance is carried out by complex algorithms, and the ToF image sensor chip can directly measure the distance to the object. In addition, the solution is excellent in terms of outdoor performance, supporting 940 nm light sources, and each pixel has a unique background illumination suppression circuit. Even with twice the lighting peak power, this solution provides undisturbed depth data.

The 3D ToF technology market remains hot, and system-level solutions have detonated a new wave of industry applications

Figure 6. Complete system composition of ADI’s ToF solution.

It can be seen from the above figure that in addition to the front-end chip and sensor, more optoelectronic devices will be needed according to the needs of CCD. These devices around ADI’s ToF solution are products of ADI. “This picture is for the convenience of everyone to understand the system composition of ADI’s ToF, but it is not recommended for customers to make too many modifications during use, because every module in the system has been run-in with companies such as Panasonic for a long time, and any change will affect to the overall performance of the system.” Li Jia emphasized.

Compared with CMOS solutions, this system-level ToF solution can provide higher system performance in the same size or the same cost. For example, high-resolution can better distinguish the subject from the background in a complex light environment. At the same time, thanks to the CCD architecture designed by Panasonic for the 940nm light-emitting band, it can more accurately capture the picture in the moving environment.

The 3D ToF technology market remains hot, and system-level solutions have detonated a new wave of industry applications

Figure 7. ToF CCDs provide excellent outdoor performance

The TOF depth sensing module of Pico Zense, a leading provider of TOF depth sensing solutions in China, uses ADI’s ToF solution. The depth image resolution of its flagship product DCAM710 can reach 640 x 480, and the picture transmits frames per second. 30FPS, the product is small in size, economical in power consumption, imaging clarity, and accuracy all meet the VGA standard, and can be widely used in intelligent robots, AR/VR, micro-projection, drones and other fields. According to Li Jia, ADI will cooperate with more companies in the future to make ToF technology faster and more accurate in the IoT modular system-level software and hardware solutions.

The 3D ToF technology market remains hot, and system-level solutions have detonated a new wave of industry applications

Figure 8. Productization plan of ADI’s ToF solution

Conclusion of this paper

As a new type of visual sensing technology, we are increasingly aware of the growing demand for 3D depth vision technologies such as ToF in major application markets around the world. For solution providers in the industry, whether it is for consumer or professional applications, there are still many basic problems that still need to be solved. The balance of stability and anti-interference ability has reached a level that is more optimized than the current level, and then doubled the reliability in the practical application of ToF visual sensing technology. It is a technical solution such as ADI. The key points that providers should consider is also the premise for the popularization of ToF technology and the healthy development of the entire market.

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