Automobile

Guest commentary: Why stereo vision cameras are integral to autonomous driving

Many technological advances have converged to revitalize stereo vision cameras. They can be calibrated across 22 dimensions in real time, an immensely complex task enabled by advanced algorithms and in part by new dedicated processors for computer vision and neural networks.

Most importantly, new software developments enable imagers to be “untethered,” allowing multiple cameras to be widely separated and placed in a variety of orientations. The resulting longer baselines enable long-distance sensing and uncoupling the cameras brings stereo vision to long-range sensing.

Current technology and trends can help us imagine what lies beyond the horizon for cameras and stereo vision technology. For one, 3D cameras are likely to become a standard feature of mobile devices, in part because they’ll be essential to augmented reality and the metaverse. Most dramatically, we can expect to experience fully immersive photographs, 3D projections that can be viewed from any angle. On the professional side, 3D cameras using AI will be more widely adopted; they’re already used in manufacturing, construction, industrial automation and entertainment, among other industries.

Stereo vision cameras are also heading toward a new machine learning application: robotics, for automating manufacturing and quality control. Growing demand for vision-guided robotic systems will drive market expansion across varied industries, from textiles and packaging to medicine, chemicals and food.

While stereo vision cameras become ubiquitous, more familiar cameras might fade away. Compact digital cameras are already redundant in the age of smartphones, and new mirrorless cameras seem destined to eclipse classic DSLR cameras.

Whatever comes to pass, the highest future achievement for stereo vision cameras promises to be truly remarkable — space missions. Scientists say spacecraft will one day use stereoscopic systems to manage robotics in orbit and help rovers navigate the uncharted planets they land on. You have to wonder what that camera’s pioneers would think about that history in the making.

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