SBIR Phase I: Three-Dimensional Computational Optical Imaging Sensor

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Double Helix LLC
1815 Bluebell Ave
Boulder, CO 80302
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project investigates the feasibility of a compact, robust, low-cost optical imaging sensor system capable of acquiring three-dimensional (3D) information from a scene with high precision and accuracy, superior to current commercialized technologies. The sensor provides, from a single shot, an image as well as distance information; associating each object feature with its precise 3D location. With the advances in sensing technology, 3D information is increasingly incorporated into real-world applications, from manufacturing to entertainment and security. However, the extraction of high-resolution 3D information remains challenging without the use of active illumination, a critical requirement for compact, low power applications. Existing passive illumination solutions are essentially based on triangulation or defocus effects. Methods based on triangulation suffer from occlusion and correspondence problems. On the other hand, the accuracy of depth estimation based on defocus effects is essentially limited by the depth of field of the imaging system. Novel light-field cameras extend the approach to multi-apertures at the expense of an inherent loss in resolution. The proposed sensor system overcomes these limitations and fundamentally provides improvements in depth resolution while being fast, parallel, compact, lightweight, and scalable. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project stems from the possibility of obtaining real-time 3D depth information with high depth resolution using a compact and robust sensor system. Imaging sensors are now widespread and inexpensive, and so is computing power, already an integral part of most cameras. Demand for 3D imaging is rapidly expanding and is the burgeoning sector of the 40 billion dollar imaging market. The proposed system paradigm can be integrated with existing optoelectronic hardware that can be mass produced at low cost. Such a cost effective approach in conjunction with the unique capabilities of the 3D computational imaging sensor could enable disruptive applications for manufacturing, robotics, human-machine interfaces, and emerging 3D scanners. These applications are not always possible to implement with existing low resolution or active illumination methods. The company is generating synergistic industrial partnerships to accelerate the transfer of discoveries into applications.