The shortest distance between two points is a straight line – unless, as this video dramatically demonstrates, you are a drone and a high-voltage power line hangs along that straight line. Less dramatic, but no less important for worker safety, are encounters between factory workers and autonomously guided industrial vehicles (AGVs) moving about the manufacturing floor. Then there are encounters between AGVs with stationary objects, such as a chain link fence, that not only damage these expensive AGVs, but also severely disrupt productivity. So how do we keep drones in the air and AGVs from running into fences or worse a person?

3D Time of Flight (3D ToF) may be the solution. 3D ToF is a type of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) which uses a laser to bounce low-power optical pulses off a target, and detecting the light reflected back, measures the distance from the target using high resolution image sensors. With 3D ToF both higher resolution and information from all three dimensions are possible. But for developers to build products that can take advantage of 3DToF there are a number of complex and time-consuming signal processing tasks that need to be performed.

Analog Devices has developed a highly integrated 3D ToF solution that frees developers to focus their time and energy not on the acquisition of this depth data but on what they want to do with this data for their application. For example, ADI provides open source software framework wrappers for Matlab, Python, and RobotOS allowing for software/algorithm development in Simulink, custom C/C++, and Python applications. We allow users to use Windows, Linux, and Mac based operating systems and provide reference designs and drivers to allow for zero day development. 

From a more technical standpoint, the raw information coming from the ToF sensor requires complex processing to extract the high-resolution 3D information from the data stream. ADI’s ToF system has a self-contained depth detection system that outputs depth-per-pixel data, freeing the user’s processor – and the developer – to focus on the application of the depth data. ADI’s 3D ToF solution has also mitigated the problem of interference encountered in places with multiple ToF systems and in places with sun or strong ambient light.

With the power of ADI and high-resolution 3D vision, the challenge of power line avoidance by drones and collision avoidance with factory workers by robots can be solved. There are also a whole new generation of products that are possible with 3D ToF solutions from ADI. Imagine driving your car and answering a phone call, adjusting the temperature or changing the radio station with simple hand or finger gestures. How much fun would a gaming system be that ditches the hand-held controller because it can respond to hand and finger gestures and body movement?

For the developer who chooses ADI, we provide tools, development boards, software and firmware to enable faster implementation of 3D ToF applications. In addition, our design services partners can customize the ADI platform for customers that may not have the resources to do it themselves. These partners also offer standard TOF modules as well. You can learn more about ADI and our 3D ToF solutions – and order our 3D ToF development board – by visiting our 3D ToF web page.