The technical evolution of cameras has changed the way we experience the world around us as well as provided a new lens to view the past. Recently, technological advancements in the field have reached new heights with the development of the 3D camera for mobile phones. Their application extends past unlocking phones to the realms of cybersecurity, biometric analysis and augmented reality. Their arrival into the market has fuelled a demand for manufacturers to incorporate 3D cameras for face recognition, amongst other purposes, in smartphones and other devices. Helping manufacturers meet these demands, the EU-funded FASTFACEREC project developed a competitive camera for face recognition, mixed reality and augmented reality applications for small and portable devices. “Based on a combination of thorough design and the integration of algorithms, hardware and software, we have built from scratch a new camera design with the aim of solving consumers’ known and unknown itches,” reports Javier Grandia, project coordinator and project manager at photonicSENS.
The 3D camera under the microscope
In a single device and with a single shot, the camera, apiCAM, delivers a high-resolution depth map – 1.4 Megapixels – and an image simultaneously. “Our revolutionary new optical design improves the camera’s performance whilst keeping the total height of the camera in check,” highlights Ann Whyte, co-founder and CEO of photonicSENS. This was proven through tests carried out in the project. “We have confirmed that it provides excellent results in depth perception and consumes fewer resources to create depth maps and 3D reconstruction, from a single shot using a single camera,” emphasises Whyte. These characteristics and advantages come from having a monolithic integration of all the camera components. By designing and assembling their own parts, FASTFACEREC has better control of the performance of the camera. Further to this, “we have developed the capability of mass manufacturing this design in-house. This is especially important because alignment at the nanometre level required for our cameras is completely new and having production capacity reduces the distance between our products and the market,” adds Whyte.
Changing the market
Looking to the future, the project is now in conversation with some of the biggest names in the world of consumer electronics and smartphones. “The feedback we have received is very positive and ensures we are well placed for further technical and business conversations,” notes Whyte. In the long-term, the project expects that their product will be adding value to a broad spectrum of sectors and services, from smartphones and smart glasses in the consumer sector to manufacturing and security, to name just a few possibilities. “As for next steps, our priority is to increase our customer base and to scale up production to meet the sales targets we have planned for the coming years. We aim to continue to build our production capacity and enhance our product portfolio,” concludes Grandia. Regarding research and development, new designs and an exciting road map for single-lens 3D cameras are also in the pipeline.
FASTFACEREC, 3D camera, small and portable devices, face recognition, augmented reality, mixed reality