3D Sensing: The Next Disruptive Technology

The successes of 3D gaming systems, like the popular Kinect by Microsoft, have shown the market viability of 3D sensing technology. However, just like any disruptive technology, the first application to which it is applied, gesture recognition, is just that: only the first application. There are still many other possible uses of 3D sensing technology unthought-of that can completely redefine industries and create tremendous market opportunity.

Learn more about 3D sensing through its use in gesture recognition applications.

Consider the evolution of the digital camera. Remember learning for the first time that a camera was introduced into a mobile device? It certainly hasn’t taken long for the camera to become as much a part of what we consider a mobile phone as a touchscreen. In addition, the combination of camera and phone has enabled completely new use cases beyond what was ever possible with a device that was just a camera. For example, today you can SMS (text message) an HD image to your spouse confirming that you’re buying the right item or use the phone’s camera and GPS coordinates to give you a quick visual indication of all the restaurants in your immediate area and their Yelp ratings. The truth is today, a phone without a camera simply isn’t a phone.

By adding the third dimension to systems, 3D sensing provides a foundation of supplemental technology that will extend the capabilities of mobile devices well past their current limitations. The ability to sense where the user or an object is in relation to the mobile device, to capture depth, dimension, and space, enables a whole new range of applications and ways to interact with one’s phone or tablet, just the way the digital camera has revolutionized the way we communicate, share information and navigate our world.

The challenge, like any disruptive technology, is that while 3D sensing is still emerging, it is too early to tell exactly how it is going to change our world. In addition, 3D sensing technology continues to evolve as well. Sensing technology using more sophisticated laser-imaging systems, such as those using our vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) is now available. These new 3D sensing systems are more accurate, smaller, lower-power, and less susceptible to errors than the first generation based on LEDs and edge emitting lasers.

What is a VCSEL?

The market is already beginning to embrace 3D sensing technology across industries. Companies who embrace 3D sensing early will likely become the leaders that define the future of this technology.

I am interested in any comments or questions you may have regarding this topic.

Check back soon for my next post “Technology Is No Longer An Island”.

Emerging Applications in VCSEL Technology

This week’s blog post comes from Craig Thompson, Finisar.

Accurate timing is a crucial element in many applications, such as in high-speed networks and GPS (Global Positioning Systems). Imagine following your GPS to an unknown destination and the device tells you to prepare to make a left turn. What if the left turn is 500 feet before a dangerous ravine and the calm voice instructing you is 10 seconds too slow…

Fortunately in today’s modern era, atomic clocks–based on either cesium or rubidium –provide the careful precision required for these types of applications. That said, the size and cost of the traditional atomic clocks limit their use.

A new generation of atomic sensors, enabled by the narrow line width, low power, and long-term parametric stability and reliability of VCSELs will enable a variety of emerging applications. For example, Chip Scale Atomic Clocks (CSAC), already available, increases the portability of this technology, making it possible to integrate accurate timing as a local resource.

Consider locations where GPS signals are delayed or impaired, for example in the dense wilderness or vast desert; it can take minutes for devices to receive timing information from remote satellites. Alternatively, devices with a local VCSEL-based atomic clock could quickly and accurately lock position, thus improving responsiveness and productivity.

As the cost of mass-producing chip scale atomic clocks continues to drop with advances in technology, VCSEL-based clocks could even begin to replace ovenized crystal oscillators in applications requiring precision timing. As a core technology in high-speed communications systems, VCSELs are already produced in sufficient volumes to facilitate this migration.

Interestingly, the same components and principles used to build an atomic clock can also be used in the highly precise detection of magnetic fields. By increasing the sensitivity and range of magnetic sensors in this way, wholly new applications can be realized. Consider the possibilities when metal can be detected at greater distances through different materials, such as objects buried underground or lost in deep water.

While VCSEL technology has reached a high level of maturity, we have only just begun to explore its possible applications, for example, in 3D cameras and gesture recognition gaming. With its high power efficiency, high reliability, and small foot print to enable more compact systems, VCSELs are clearly an important foundation of our future.

For more information about VCSEL technology and other applications such as gesture recognition and 3D sensing, visit our microsite: www.myvcsel.com