Canesta, Inc, the pioneer of Electronic Perception Technology, announced today that Japan’s Optex Corporation – one of the world’s leaders in optical image sensing technology – has adopted one of Canesta’s 3D CanestaVision™ sensor chips for use in Optex’s new 3D image sensing technology platform. Optex, which provides optical-based sensors for production lines, quality control, building access and security, and environmental control, formally disclosed the successful development of the platform in an announcement today in Japan.
Optex says that the fusion of its technology with that of Canesta has resulted in sensors that provide “more precise, intelligent machine control that was not possible with conventional 2D sensing technology.” Of particular note, Optex says, is that the technology “removes the influence of ambient light such as sunlight, and dramatically improves the tolerances for outdoor performance.” The company saw 2007 sales in excess of 22 billion yen (about US$213 million), predominantly in optical-sensor-based products.
Optex sees immediate applications for the 3D technology in adaptive robotics – where, for example, a factory machine slows down or stops for safety as a human approaches – and in providing “high-security sensing fields” for building security and access. The company has the world’s highest market share in automatic door applications.
“The economics and advanced capabilities of Canesta’s 3D image sensing chips completely change the dynamics of the optical sensing market,” said Toru “Ted” Kobayashi, CEO of Optex. “For the first time, we are able to precisely leverage spatial information to create a family of ‘adaptive’ applications that can be cost effective, and capable of mass production.”
In addition to the robotics example above, Kobayashi cited other applications, such as an automatic door sensor that could discriminate between passersby and individuals actually intending building entry, or a security sensor that can separate intruders out from complex backgrounds. “The Hollywood movie trick of fooling a security camera with a photograph of an empty hallway will become a thing of the past,” said Kobayashi, with a smile.
Kobayashi said that he sees a great opportunity in 3D-enhanced optical sensing, and that Optex plans to deploy an “aggressive growth strategy”. First Optex products employing the CanestaVision chips could appear as early as late 2008 or early 2009. “We also hope to leverage future Canesta chips and technologies,” he added.
The Canesta 3D sensor chip adopted by Optex was developed for automotive safety applications, and as such has had the most focus and long-term development of any of Canesta’s products, revealed Canesta’s president and CEO Jim Spare. “The need for accuracy and reliability in sensors designed for automobiles goes without saying,” said Spare. “We have been actively working with top vehicle manufacturers and Tier 1 automotive suppliers for several years, and the result is a very robust product that Optex finds ideal for their markets.”
Spare said that due to the long development cycles in the automotive industry, personal vehicle safety features incorporating his company’s 3D sensor products will hit the market some time after Optex’s CanestaVision-enabled products do. “This is an outstanding application for Electronic Perception Technology, and we’re absolutely delighted with Optex’s achievement,” said Spare.
Canesta’s 3D sensors utilize low-cost CMOS chips that are capable of measuring the distance from the surface of the chip to features of nearby objects, in real time, and at 60 frames per second. The resulting continuously-updated “depth maps” make it possible for electronic products and applications to perceive the local environment in fine-grained 3D detail regardless of lighting conditions, color or texture of either subjects or background, or distracting features such as reflections.