November 17, 2010

Researches Explores Scientific Potential Of Time-of-flight Cameras

Researchers from the Group of Applied Artificial Intelligence (GIAA) on the Colmenarejo Campus of UC3M have presented this application at the latest Sal³n Internacional de Material El©ctrico y Electr³nico, recently held in Madrid. The participants at the stand of Infaimon, the company which has collaborated on this project, had the opportunity to test this interface with a videogame operated simply by moving ones hands as if holding a virtual steering wheel. For this purpose, the scientists have employed a time of flight camera or TOF with which they capture in 3D user's movements to later transmit them to a computer, which then processes and transmits them to the game's car. "The most complicated part was determining the camera's characteristics to be able to optimize movement and its integration with many different applications", noted one of the GIAA researchers from UC3M, Daniel Sánchez, who has carried out his final degree project within the framework of this research study.

The great advantage of this type of camera is that it offers three-dimensional information without having to resort to the classic stereoscope systems of two lenses. "These new sensors offer in-depth information, which is of great interest when working with artificial vision systems", remarked Miguel Ángel Patricio, who coordinates this research from the Department of Informatics at UC3M. The functioning of the TOF camera is relatively simple: an infrared ring gives off a light that bounces off the body, which is then recorded and returns to the sensor. According to the time this process takes, the distance between these objects can be calculated. "Our idea", Patricio points out, "is to be able to apply this sensor to different problems on which we are currently working, such as video surveillance systems, biometric face identification, analysis of player movement in sports performance, and man-machine interfaces", he concluded.

Multiple applications

These researchers, who work on the UC3M Campus of Colmenarejo, are now focusing their efforts on analyzing information that is obtained using this type of sensors. "I am convinced that their use will revolutionize artificial vision systems in the future, because the data obtained are much richer than that obtained through other types of traditional sensors", asserted the professor, who pointed out that we only have to wait until the economy of the market lowers their price, as they now cost close to 6,000 euros per unit.

The current challenge facing these scientists is applying this camera's potential in certain fields. In medicine, for example with this type of sensors an automatic rehabilitation system can be created which can guide patients in doing their exercises without having to leave their home. These researchers also collaborate with INEF (Spain's National Sport Institute) in the development of criteria for the analysis of childhood obesity through the TOF sensor, which up to now has been done with laser. And the applications likewise reach into the area of what is referred to as "affective computing" through the design of HCI (Human-Computer Interface) applications which attempt to examine a person's mood through the application of algorithms that analyze information provided by these three-dimensional cameras.


Image 1: A time-of-flight camera works on a car racing video game. Credit: University Carlos III of Madrid

Image 2: This is an infographic about the time-of-flight cameras system. Credit: University Carlos III of Madrid


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