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Wide dynamic range stereo camera wins Vision Award

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An innovative 3D camera has won the Vision Award at this year’s Vision show in Stuttgart, which took place 6-8 November. The camera from French firm New Imaging Technologies (NIT) is based on the company’s wide dynamic range (WDR) CMOS technology, which addresses imaging in outdoor environments and other areas with extremes in light levels. Its Magic 3D WDR stereoscopic camera adds 3D capabilities to the high dynamic range of the sensors.

The camera acquires two data streams from two WDR sensors, which operate via a logarithmic response to provide 140dB dynamic range. The data from the sensors is used to make a geometrical calculation and generate a stereoscopic depth map of the scene.

NIT hopes the camera will bring stereoscopy to a broader range of applications by offering a high dynamic range system. These include automotive and intelligent transport system (ITS) applications, for things like pedestrian detection and collision avoidance; applications in farming, with autonomous robots used to harvest crops; and in industry, for aspects like robot guidance.

One specific user of the technology is a research centre in France connected to Toyota. The centre is looking to develop a pre-crash safety system for onboard cars, which will use the stereo camera, along with millimetre wave radar sensors, to detect vehicles, obstacles and pedestrians.

The award and €5,000 prize money was presented to NIT at a ceremony at the Vision show by Warren Clark, publishing director at Imaging and Machine Vision Europe, which sponsor the award. Speaking to Imaging and Machine Vision Europe, Dr Yang Ni, CTO and founder of NIT, commented: ‘We are very proud of the award. We think it [our camera] is a really innovative concept. This [winning the award] demonstrates that a logarithmic sensor is really useful as a machine vision image sensor.’

Along with its high dynamic range, the sensor technology has minimal image lag, smearing and blooming, and also suppresses spatial-temporal light accommodation thanks to its logarithmic response, ensuring the image quality is excellent. The Magic 3D camera supports HD resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels and provides 2 x 12 bits output through a Camera Link interface. It has a width of 5cm and supports M12 (S-mount) lenses. The camera has an approximate working range of 50cm to 10 metres.

On the subject of 3D imaging and NIT’s stereo camera, Dr Ni commented that 3D is an important technology as it allows the user to ‘connect to the physical environment, which makes it more reliable’.

According to Dr Ni, NIT is currently working on improving the performance of the camera and the chip design, specifically to make the device more suitable for machine vision.