Bringing vision to machines

Calif.-based start-up Canesta has created a developer kit –which includes a single-chip 3-D “camera”, a USB interface, and a software development environment– for building machine vision into products.

A factory robot equipped with the Equinox system could determine the size, shape and distance of items around it and thus what it needs to pick up first. The chip would also allow an automatic door to figure out if the thing in front of it is a person or a dog, or whether a person plans to actually enter a store or just inadvertently stepped on the rubber mat while passing.

Companies may begin to install the technology in finished products by late 2005.

The automotive business is also looking at Canesta’s product. Injuries occur each year when airbags deploy while a small adult or a child is sitting in the passenger seat. By equipping airbags with Equinox chips, 3D information about the passenger could cancel a deployment. Smart airbags, however, may not come out until 2009.

Sensor technology is also investigated by Volvo and Infineon which are promoting active safety technologies for cars, such as rearview mirrors that can monitor a car’s blind spots and help prevent drivers from shifting into an occupied lane.

Eye-tracking systems that figure out if a driver is tired or even intoxicated will start to come out next year for the trucking industry.

Critics, however, point out that this sort of technology raises massive privacy concerns because it could mean that in the future one might never be alone again.

Press Release.