"According to him, it can be used to help self-driving cars avoid obstacles halfway down the street, or to help video games tell when you are jumping, pumping your fists."
Washington, May 30 - How about a day when your self-driven car can identify a child on the street from a safe distance or you can reply to your friend just by waving your hand while your smart phone is on charge in the next room?
With a new laser sensing technology, doing such actions is not far away.
The new system, developed by researchers at University of California (UC), Berkeley, can remotely sense objects across distances as long as 30 feet - 10 times farther than what could be done with comparable current low-power laser systems.
The technology could further be used to make smaller and cheaper 3D imaging systems to be used for self-driving cars, smart phones and interactive video games - without the need for bulky boxes of electronics or optics.
The new sweet spot for emerging consumer and robotics applications is around 10 metres or just over 30 feet, said Behnam Behroozpour from UC Berkeley.
This range covers the size of typical living spaces while avoiding excessive power dissipation and possible eye safety concerns, he added.
The new system relies on LIDAR (light radar) - a 3D imaging technology that uses light to provide feedback about the world around it.
Current lasers used in high-resolution LIDAR imaging can be large, power-hungry and expensive.
Bulkiness is also a problem for driverless cars such as Google's that must carry a large 3D camera on its roof.
In their new system, the team used a type of LIDAR called frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) LIDAR, which they felt would ensure their imager had good resolution with lower power consumption.
This type of system emits frequency-chirped laser light (that is, whose frequency is either increasing or decreasing) on an object and then measures changes in the light frequency that is reflected back, Behroozpour explained.
According to him, it can be used to help self-driving cars avoid obstacles halfway down the street, or to help video games tell when you are jumping, pumping your fists.
The researchers would present their work at 'CLEO: 2014', being held in San Jose, California June 8-13.