Stanford, UCSD team develops “4D” camera; use in autonomous vehicles

Engineers at Stanford University and the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have developed a monocentric lens with multiple sensors using microlens arrays, allowing light field (LF) capture with an unprecedented field of view (FOV)—a camera that generates four-dimensional images and can capture 138 degrees of information.

The new camera—the first single-lens, wide field of view, light field (LF) camera—could generate information-rich images and video frames that will enable robots to better navigate the world and understand certain aspects of their environment, such as object distance and surface texture. The researchers also see this technology being used in autonomous vehicles and augmented and virtual reality technologies. Researchers presented their new technology at the computer vision conference CVPR 2017 in July.

Light field (LF) capture and processing are important in an expanding range of computer vision applications, offering rich textural and depth information and simplification of conventionally complex tasks. Although LF cameras are commercially available, no existing device offers wide field-of-view (FOV) imaging. This is due in part to the limitations of fisheye lenses, for which a fundamentally constrained entrance pupil diameter severely limits depth sensitivity.

In this work we describe a novel, compact optical design that couples a monocentric lens with multiple sensors using microlens arrays, allowing LF capture with an unprecedented FOV. Leveraging capabilities of the LF representation, we propose a novel method for efficiently coupling the spherical lens and planar sensors, replacing expensive and bulky fiber bundles. We construct a single-sensor LF camera prototype, rotating the sensor relative to a fixed main lens to emulate a wide-FOV multi-sensor scenario. Finally, we describe a processing toolchain, including a convenient spherical LF parameterization, and demonstrate depth estimation and post-capture refocus for indoor and outdoor panoramas with 15 × 15 × 1600 × 200 pixels (72 MPix) and a 138° FOV.

15. August 2017

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