How 3D Sensing Technology is Changing More Than Just Video Games

3D Sensing

Photo: Atsushi Tadokoro

Your heart pounds and sweat flies as you energetically spike the ball just as it clears the net. The crowd roars as you win the match. You’ve just completed a beach volleyball match… in your living room. Thanks to 3D sensing technology, our movements can be detected and integrated into an engaging game that we interact with quite naturally without a game controller. And while winning a virtual beach volleyball match is fun, especially with an enthusiastic crowd cheering your every point, 3D sensing technology is finding its way into even more interesting parts of our lives.

Invisible to the human eye, 3D sensing systems broadcast infrared beams in three directions that are then measured by a camera as the beams are distorted through depth and motion. In other words, 3D sensing digital devices have the ability to “see” in three dimensions. It isn’t too difficult to imagine how this technology, popularized through the novel video gaming experience, might be used in the near future to create touchless, gesture-based computer or even mobile interfaces.

“You can imagine that if every device could understand its environment, we would have smart appliances, smart vehicles, smart toys. [Computer vision] really is a fundamental source of information for just about anything you’d ever want to do.” – David Fleet, computer science professor at the University of Toronto.

Going beyond arms, hands and fingers, eye tracking technology means that even if a person does not have use of their arms or hands, he or she can still interact with a computer or mobile device. Eye tracking is the process of measuring where a person is looking or the motion of an eye relative to the head. Again, infrared light is used – this time reflected from the eye and sensed by a video camera or an optical sensor. The information is then analyzed to extract eye rotation from changes in reflections.

Optical methods, especially video recording-based methods show great promise because they are both non-invasive and inexpensive. Best of all, the touchless sensing and gesture recognition market is predicted to reach $15.02 billion by 2018, which means that this market (at $2 billion in 2012) has plenty of room to grow. And, according to MarketsandMarkets, leading this growth may well be healthcare and automotive applications. Imagine, instead of virtual sand volleyball matches, patients recovering from a stroke using  3D sensing technology to perform rehabilitation exercises. And you can bet that any self-driving car will require 3D sensing technology to figure out what’s around it every instant along its journey.

With vigorous growth predicted for 3D sensing technologies over the next several years, how will this technology impact your business? It’s not just for games anymore.