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Robust Optical Time-of-Flight Range Imaging Based on Smart Pixel Structures

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2 Author(s)
Bernhard Buttgen ; MESA Imaging AG, Zurich ; Peter Seitz

The reliable detection of the three-dimensional position of arbitrary objects in a scene is a key capability of most animals and one of the most important tasks in machine vision. Today's preferred technical solution is optical time-of-flight (TOF) range imaging, due to its simplicity, its distance resolution, its large and adaptable measurement range, as well as the absence of shadowing problems. In order significantly to extend the application areas of TOF 3-D cameras, in particular for outdoor use, we show how their performance can be improved in all relevant respects: background light suppression is improved by an order of magnitude by the minimum charge transfer method. Multicamera operation is achieved by a binary pseudo-noise modulation/demodulation technique. This method also avoids all practical ambiguity problems typically encountered with harmonic modulation. Higher temporal demodulation resolution becomes possible with a pixel structure employing lateral electric fields. We have realized such pixels with a commercially available CCD/CMOS process, and our measurement results confirm that gigahertz demodulation imaging is possible. The practicality of all theoretical concepts is demonstrated with a miniaturized TOF 3-D camera platform whose LED array light source is modulated at a typical rate of 20 MHz. Our work contributes, therefore, to opening up new application domains of the soaring optical TOF range imaging techniques.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems I: Regular Papers  (Volume:55 ,  Issue: 6 )