A new, versatile imaging technology quickly gives users accurate three-dimensional depictions of objects being tracked. The image system, developed by Visidyne, Inc. (Burlington, MA), promises application possibilities beyond missile defense. The Missile Defense Agency originally funded the company through a 2003 SBIR Phase II contract.
The system’s basic components are a laser imager; a laser or a laser-diode array as an illumination source; sensors; and a processor. Visidyne’s patented system works much like a regular camera does, registering objects in two dimensions, including military tanks, road obstacles, or faces in a crowd.
How it Works
The system illuminates those targets in a 2D view, and then allows the extraction of three-dimensional images that give human users (or sophisticated analysis software) a better view of a scene. For example, Visidyne’s innovation could help surveillance cameras distinguish human faces from photographs, or it could give intelligence or security users more accurate 3D renderings of targets. The speed at which Visidyne’s system can process and render image data offers both military and law enforcement users the ability to make split-second decisions.
The technology’s processing speed and 3D renderings rely on illuminating the target with modulated light (at frequencies of a million cycles per second or faster depending on application needs) and then measuring the light that comes back. Specifically, the technique measures recurring modulated light at three phases in time to get three images. Visidyne’s technology can then process and analyze the subtle or not-so-subtle changes in light reflectance, distance, and brightness in those three images to effectively determine and render the 3D shape of that target’s surfaces. The more an object rotates, or the more Visidyne’s imager rotates around an object, the more complete the 3D rendering of the object can become.
The viewing range for Visidyne’s technology can be configured according to application requirements. For ground-based applications, such as facial recognition for security cameras, the range could be configured for less than 1.5 meters.
Where it Stands
Visidyne contends its LADAR system shows promise, especially in the areas of building and perimeter security. The company sees potential for its system’s use in the industrial processing arena as well, namely in monitoring the shape of pills being prepared for packaging at pharmaceutical plants. In factories, the technology also could help spot misaligned or missing bottle caps, for example, or circuit-board components. In automobiles or robotic vehicles, the technology could be coupled with controls to help vehicles identify and avoid obstacles.
MDA funding helped Visidyne piece together the concept for the system, which, as envisioned in its final form, would incorporate a powerful image-processing chip, developed through an additional Visidyne partnership with MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. The final version would incorporate a processor integrated with the system’s focal plane array to do nearly instantaneous non-mechanical scanning — looking at and processing every image pixel on the array electronically at the same time, rather than looking at each pixel sequentially.
For more information on the Visidyne imaging system, visit http://info.hotims.com/34457-532 . (Source: Joe Singleton/NTTC; MDA TechUpdate, Missile Defense Agency, National Technology Transfer Center Washington Operations)