Sci & Tech

Chip Could Turn Phones Into 3D Scanners

Chip Could Turn Phones Into 3D Scanners
Chip Could Turn Phones Into 3D Scanners

American scientists, including one Iranian at the California Institute of Technology have developed a camera that could, if implemented, give smartphones the ability to take a 3D scan of everyday objects Computer World reported on Tuesday.

The engineers said their device is based on a cheap silicon chip less than 1mm squared and it could, if implanted into a smartphone, produce a 3D scan with an extremely fine resolution.

The chips could be utilized with a number of different electronic items, and the data would be sent to three-dimensional printers to copy scanned objects, eliminating traditional desktop scanning devices.

The chip works by shining beams of light on a target object. It then detects subtle differences in the light that is reflected back from that object. With these two forms of scanning the internal program helps to build a digital 3D representation of the image target.

To shine the light, the device uses an array of tiny LIDAR (light detection and ranging) laser beam scanners. Useful for measuring distance, LIDAR elements have been used for years in applications such as navigation for driverless cars and automated assistants.

The researchers used the proof-of-concept electronic camera chip to create a 3D image of a US penny from half a meter away. The scan features micron-level resolution as well as the larger undulations on the penny's surface which are hardly visible to human eyes.

The 16-pixel electronic light array could be increased to create larger, more powerful arrays for applications such as helping driverless cars avoid obstacles, according to the researchers.

"The small size and high quality of this new chip-based imager will result in significant cost reductions, which will enable thousands of new uses for such systems by incorporating them into personal devices such as smartphones," Caltech's Mashad born engineering professor Ali Hajimiri said in a release last week.