The IoT Era and Why Precision Optics Will Be Key

The IoT Era is Upon Us

As the Internet of Things (IoT) swiftly expands to include more devices, the competition amongst them increases. Many IoT devices depend on computer vision capabilities, which have evolved into the ability to recognize specific objects.  In order to be best at seeing and recognizing things, these devices must have optics of the best quality and clarity. Because of this, we will certainly see increased demand for high quality optics to improve the accuracy and usefulness of these devices.

The world of IoT is predicted to grow steadily, although slower than initially predicted – IoT growth forecasts have been revised from roughly 50 billion down to around 30 billion connected devices by 2020. Within that world, there are numerous technologies that require compact optics, the most obvious being self-driving cars, drones, and security systems. 

The Importance of Optics in IoT Devices

Clearly the quality of your product’s optics can make a huge difference in its effectiveness and delivery of its most advanced capabilities; for example, the safety of a self-driving car can hinge on its ability to “see” its surroundings, and the value of a security system may easily depend on how good the images it collects are, for example, of a culprit.

The OEM companies that strive to impress consumers and wow them with great features will be the first to admit that these questions of product quality and attention to detail are always on their customers’ minds, particularly when they are forking over a large wad of cash for a new IoT gadget. Safety, performance, and accuracy all make a difference. In other words, tiny technologies matter.  Our active alignment technology may perform minute adjustments during assembly of the smallest optics around, but these miniscule details are the ones that create a big difference in the resulting optical performance. The quality of these optics is our top priority for customers because as many of these devices get smaller and thinner, the need for precision optics will only increase.

Virtual and Augmented Reality: a Holographic Future

augmented reality minecraft

Microsoft HoloLens Display (Source: Wired)

Innovation is happening in the virtual reality and augmented reality universe, and VC firms are investing in it significantly.  Much like the “holodeck” in Star Trek – a room that can change into any location in the universe via holographic image—these wearable alternate reality devices plunge users into another world.  Oculus Rift is currently the leading virtual reality product, and, as recently announced in Wired, Microsoft has been developing what they call HoloLens, an augmented reality headset that layers a multi-dimensional cyber world on top of the real world.  These systems create an amazing array of opportunities to collaborate, visualize, create, experiment, and, of course, play.

Augmented reality headset

HoloLens Augmented Reality Headset (Wired)

The new Hololens’ depth camera has a field of vision that spans 120 by 120 degrees, so it can sense your hands even when they are almost outstretched.  As many as 18 sensors flood the device with data every second, all managed with an onboard CPU.  Users control the device by gesture recognition, voice, and gaze. Scenes might be anything from a 3D video game to the landscape of Mars.  In fact, the Mars hologram was so impressive that NASA has signed on to use the system right away so that agency scientists can use it to collaborate on a mission.

In addition to Oculus Rift, other virtual reality systems include the Zeiss VR One and the Samsung Gear VR.  The HoloLens, still in development, is being touted as very ambitious and bold, and will be a unique and groundbreaking augmented reality system that combines reality with virtual surroundings.  People will expect a thrilling ride when it arrives, and it will be a delight to see the inventive applications developers come up with to maximize this technology.

Cameras, Machine Vision, and Gesture Control Innovations

A demonstration of gesture control using a 3D camera. (Image credit: Intel Free Press, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Will gesture recognition transform our mobile phone, tv, and computer experiences?  Certainly leading companies in the space, such as PrimeSense and EyeSight Mobile Technologies, believe so.  Technology-savvy consumers may see this giant wave of innovations coming: gesture recognition, à la tv drama NCIS, whose cutting-edge video screen walls allow people to grab and expand files almost physically with their hands, is likely coming to a device near you, bringing with it an endless array of gesture-controlled apps and games.

The latest news is that app developers are beginning to consider transforming their apps with a new user interface – one that uses gesture control instead of the touchscreen, much like that found in the  Wii or Kinect gaming systems, but more advanced.  If new phones come with a gesture mode, then what’s next for automotive dashboard controls, kitchen appliances, and light switches?

An amazing array of technologies are possible with this technology, but given that even a touchscreen can be accidentally touched the wrong way, very careful thought must be given to the gestures that are used to control these devices.  One wouldn’t want to walk by the television swinging his arms, and by doing so accidentally trigger a pay-per-view movie  – this is referred to as “noise” by industry professionals.  The goal is to have a system that recognizes the difference between noise and a real gesture.  If you cannot scratch your chin in front of these cameras, customers will not be pleased.

Hopefully, given the new graphic acceleration being used in the latest gesture recognition technology, greater precision will be in place for mass market applications.  According to this article in CNET, the next round of shipments from Lenovo, Toshiba, and Philips will include products with the latest gesture recognition technology from EyeSight built in.  Only time will tell if it truly catches on, whether people are willing to switch to a new type of control pad, and what are truly the biggest challenges in this space.