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Researchers Develop New Laser Sensing Technology For Self-Driving Cars, Smartphone and 3-D Video Games

Update Date: May 30, 2014 10:04 AM EDT

Researchers at University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new sensing technology that can remotely sense objects across distances as long as 30 feet. Comparable current low-power laser systems are only capable of sensing objects across 3 feet distance. 

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 Kinect, all without the need for big, bulky boxes of electronics or optics, the press release added. 

"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," said UC Berkeley's Behnam Behroozpour, California, USA in the press release. "This range covers the size of typical living spaces while avoiding excessive power dissipation and possible eye safety concerns."

The new system is based on LIDAR (light radar) which is a 3-D imaging technology that uses light to provide feedback about the objects around it.

Generally, increasing the signal amplitude results in increased power dissipation," Behroozpour added. "Our solution avoids this tradeoff, thereby retaining the low power advantage of VCSELs for this application."

The team plans to include integrating 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 said-including the ability to use your hand, Kinect-like, to silence your ringtone from 30 feet away.

Researchers will present their findings at CLEO: 2014, being held June 8-13 in San Jose.

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