|[May 29, 2014]
Low Power, Longer Distance, Tiny Package: New Laser Sensing Technology for Self-driving Cars, Smartphones and 3-D Video Games
WASHINGTON --(Business Wire)--
A new twist on 3-D imaging technology could one day enable your
self-driving car to spot a child in the street half a block away, let
you answer your Smartphone from across the room with a wave of your
hand, or play "virtual tennis" on your driveway.
The new system, developed by researchers at the University of
California, Berkeley, can remotely sense objects across distances as
long as 30 feet, 10 times farther than what could be done with
comparable current low-power laser systems. With further development,
the technology could be used to make smaller, cheaper 3-D imaging
systems that offer exceptional range for potential use in self-driving
cars, smartphones and interactive video games like Microsoft's (News - Alert) Kinect,
all without the need for big, bulky boxes of electronics or optics.
"While meter-level operating distance is adequate for many traditional
metrology instruments, the sweet spot for emerging consumer and robotics
applications is around 10 meters," or just over 30 feet, says UC
Berkeley's Behnam Behroozpour, who will present the team's work at CLEO:
2014, being held June 8-13 in San Jose, California, USA. "This range
covers the size of typical living spaces while avoiding excessive power
dissipation and possible eye safety concerns."
The new system relies on LIDAR ("light radar"), a 3-D imaging technology
that uses light to provide feedback about the world around it. LIDAR
systems of this type emit laser light that hits an object, and then can
tell how far away that object is by measuring changes in the light
frequency that is reflected back. It can be used to help self-driving
cars avoid obstacles halfway down the street, or to help video games
tell when you are jumping, pumping your fists or swinging a "racket" at
an imaginary tennis ball across an imaginary court.
In contrast, current lasers used in high-resolution LIDAR imaging can be
large, power-hungry and expensive. Gaming systems require big, bulky
boxesof equipment, and you have to stand within a few feet of the
system for them to work properly, Behroozpour says. Bulkiness is also a
problem for driverless cars such as Google's (News - Alert), which must carry a large
3-D camera on its roof.
The researchers sought to shrink the size and power consumption of the
LIDAR systems without compromising their performance in terms of
In their new system, the team used a type of LIDAR called
frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) LIDAR, which they felt would
ensure their imager had good resolution with lower power consumption,
Behroozpour says. This type of system emits "frequency-chirped" laser
light (that is, whose frequency is either increasing or decreasing) on
an object and then measures changes in the light frequency that is
To avoid the drawbacks of size, power and cost, the Berkeley team
exploited a class of lasers called MEMS tunable VCSELs. MEMS
(micro-electrical-mechanical system) parts are tiny micro-scale machines
that, in this case, can help to change the frequency of the laser light
for the chirping, while VCSELs (vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers)
are a type of inexpensive integrable semiconductor lasers with low power
consumption. By using the MEMS device at its resonance-the natural
frequency at which the material vibrates-the researchers were able to
amplify the system's signal without a great expense of power.
"Generally, increasing the signal amplitude results in increased power
dissipation," Behroozpour says. "Our solution avoids this tradeoff,
thereby retaining the low power advantage of VCSELs for this
The team's next plans include integrating the VCSEL, photonics and
electronics into a chip-scale package. Consolidating these parts should
open up possibilities for "a host of new applications that have not even
been invented yet," Behroozpour says-including the ability to use your
hand, Kinect-like, to silence your ringtone from 30 feet away.
Presentation AW3H.2, titled "Method for Increasing the Operating
Distance of MEMS LIDAR beyond Brownian Noise Limitation," will take
place Wednesday, June 11 at 4:45 p.m. in the Room 210H of the San Jose
PRESS REGISTRATION: A press room for credentialed press and analysts
will be located in the San Jose Convention Center, Sunday through
Thursday, June 8-12. Those interested in obtaining a press badge for
CLEO: 2014 should contact Lyndsay Meyer at 202.416.1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a distinguished history as the industry's leading event on laser
science, the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) is the
premier international forum for scientific and technical optics, uniting
the fields of lasers and opto-electronics by bringing together all
aspects of laser technology, from basic research to industry
applications. CLEO: Expo showcases the latest products and applications
from more than 300 participating companies from around the world,
providing hands-on demonstrations of the latest market innovations and
applications. The Expo also offers valuable on-floor programming,
including Market Focus and the Technology Transfer program.
Sponsored by the American Physical Society's (APS) Laser Science
Division, IEEE (News - Alert) Photonics Society and The Optical Society (OSA), CLEO
provides the full range of critical developments in the field,
showcasing the most significant milestones from laboratory to
marketplace. With an unparalleled breadth and depth of coverage, CLEO
connects all of the critical vertical markets in lasers and
electro-optics. For more information, visit�www.cleoconference.org.
CLEO: 2014 takes place June 8 - 13 at the San Jose Convention Center.
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