Ever since the launch of Microsoft’s Kinect, computer scientists have been hacking the device for different purposes. This infrared rangefinder with a built in camera produces visual maps of the scene before it. Scientists at MIT already used the Kinect for several different purposes like a navigation system and a holographic-video transmitter.
Recent work by Vivek Goyal, Professor of Electrical Engineering and his group at MIT’s Research Lab of Electronics, goes even further than the Kinect. They are momentarily developing a device that provides more-accurate depth information and has a greater range. The most promising thing is that this device is so small, cheap and power-efficient that it could be incorporated into a cellphone at very little extra cost.
How it works
The MIT team developed an algorithm which measures the time of flight of photons using a cheap photodetector and an ordinary analog-to-digital converter — an off-the-shelf component already found in all cellphones. Also the algorithm is simple enough to run on the type of processor ordinarily found in a smartphone.
The device is still a work in progress but the telecom giant Qualcomm sees enough promise in the technology that it selected the team as one of eight winners — out of 146 applicants from a select group of universities — of a $100,000 grant through its 2011 Innovation Fellowship program.
In the next video professor Goyal explains it further.