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Q&A

Are there consumer products using Time of Flight ranging camera technology?

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There was some years ago announcements of new developments in cameras that were able to record the intensity and time lag of light that they detected to be able to view the range topology and reflectance of a target.

Does anyone know if such camera technology has been commercialised yet?

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Hi KalleMP! I'm curious if you're interested in this for autofocus (my assumption) or to get 3D information for some other reason? mattdm‭ 10 months ago

@MattDM The idea was to use it as a HID to detect finger movement over a printed keyboard for instance where you cannot necessarily see the motion of the fingers if they lift and fall on the same key or how long they press down. KalleMP‭ 5 months ago

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There are a couple of cameras that use either LED or Lasers to flash the object and then build a 3d scan of the object from the return.

Both of them have a rather limited range(under 10 meters) and it looks like this technology is mostly used in robotics or surveillance.

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The first is a single pixel range finder that seems rather nice but not applicable a bit expensive for what you get but the system is configurable so that can be forgiven I suppose. The second unit is a 2D depth ranging system but is using a more conventional scanning laser but would provide the specified output for most applications. It also includes a vision sensor so can give a grey map and a depth map of the scene, a interesting product and at a reasonable price point. KalleMP‭ 2 months ago

It will serve for the air-keyboard use case I mention in earlier comment but not for another fringe application that needs a 2D sensor system. I envisaged a sensor that would be able to detect the distance from hundreds of objects that are sensed at the other end of a optical fibre bundle. Basically a distributed proximity sensing system that could be implemented in a glove or robot end effector to give it situational awareness and perhaps even pre-haptic feedback. KalleMP‭ 2 months ago

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If I understand the question right, you are probably talking about Light-field camera. One of these, Lytro was selling in 2014, which provided some fancy results as the "photo" could be re-focused after the exposure:

Lytro camera

The above wikipedia article says the company shut down in 2018. There are few other alternatives, but I am not aware about anything recent and widely available.

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That is pretty cool but not the technology I remember. It was intended to determine the range to an object from the time of flight for the return of a flash exposure. I think it used a very fast electronic shutter and then pulse delay and height detection on each pixel. I may be wrong but this other tech was not the same. KalleMP‭ 5 months ago

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I have located a source for a development system for the technology that I was seeking. It is not a mature consumer product yet but it looks like the technology has not been forgotten which gives me hope.

A company Melexis has a camera system and LumiLEDs provides a high-frequency LED illuminator option (it seems VCEL laser is the primary illumination technology) as part of a demelopment system.

The EVK75024-110-940-1 laser illuminating development board was available from Mouser at one point but no longer in stock though the latest Gen3 board seems to be a current item it is also no stock and shows a price over US$2000.

The older specification sheet and the Gen3 specifications make for good reading and it seems that some of the bare TOF sensor chips are currently also available from Mouser.

The Melexis site is not responding very well but some of the pages are on the Wayback Machine from October last year including a November announcement of a Gen3 TOF sensor. The company also provides a range of other automotive sensor technology.

It seems the technology is not quite ready for primetime though they claim millions of sensors sold so happily not forgotten. I do not know if Melexis was the company that put out the press release some years back when I first saw it but the technology was as I remember with pulsed illumination. It does seem that there is only limited optical information and it is possible that only the range information is passed through as standard.

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