Developing a new semiconductor can take a very long time. Even if based on an existing product, development of a semiconductor product must still go through a series of steps including product specification, preliminary design, computer simulation and (if all goes well) fabrication of samples, followed by rigorous testing. For complex and highly integrated solutions it can take years. But what if, suddenly, there is a pandemic sweeping the planet, changing all rules of human interaction? How does one quickly solve the challenge of ensuring people maintain a certain “social” distance from each other, or ensure enclosed spaces do not become crowded beyond recommended capacity? Analog Devices engineers, application specialists and product managers asked the same question: what do we have in our existing portfolio which can help?

A few years ago, Analog Devices developed a platform employing 3D Time of Flight technology, or 3DToF, a method for measuring and sensing objects in three dimensions. ADI’s platform bounces four low-power, infrared lasers off objects and then, just as with radar, it calculates the distance and shape of each object based on how long it took for the laser signal to return to the built-in sensor (the camera). As described in a previous blog on ADI’s 3DToF platform, for the camera to “see” in three dimensions means there is a lot of raw information which needs to be processed and turned into actionable data. ADI’s self-contained depth detection system is unique because it does the heavy lifting of processing the raw feed from the camera and turning it into a ready-to-use stream of 3D data. This frees developers to focus on their application using the depth data. Gesture recognition, factory automation, and industrial collision avoidance were some of the initial uses for 3DToF tech. Now it had a new mission: keeping people safe.

To demonstrate how ADI’s 3DToF platform works, let’s see how one could use it to umpire a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Using a software “toolbox” called MATLAB (from ADI partner Mathworks) the flow of 3D information from ADI’s platform can be programmed to figure out which of the three hand signals a player is displaying; rock, paper or scissors.  

Grab the image from the camera

Convert and clean up the image

Find the hand and fingers

Count the fingers

Umpiring a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors is now just a matter of counting fingers; if none are showing then it’s rock, two means it is scissors and five means paper. But playing umpire by counting fingers on one hand is using a fraction of the platform’s capability. ADI’s 3DToF platform has the highest resolution of any other system (it can see more detail) and widest field of view (meaning it has better peripheral vision.) With the added processing power, it can be used for automatic door opening to control people flow, and also scan a large room filled with people and accurately measure how many are inside and whether they are all appropriately spaced apart. With a suite of software programming tools, and the confidence earned by hardware deployed in challenging environments around the world, ADI’s 3DToF platform can be quickly programmed, tested, and deployed in the field.

Social distancing and crowd control are just two timely, health-related uses. Another example, which exploits the platform’s high resolution in both bright and low light, is respiration monitoring - critically needed for patients as young as infants. ADI’s 3DToF platform makes it easy for developers to solve some of the many other challenges brought on by the pandemic. To learn more – and to watch a video on how the platform speeds Healthcare, Industrial and Automotive solutions please visit ADI’s 3DToF web page.