Time-of-flight Camera - Components

Components

A time-of-flight camera consists of the following components:

  • Illumination unit: It illuminates the scene. As the light has to be modulated with high speeds up to 100 MHz, only LEDs or laser diodes are feasible. The illumination normally uses infrared light to make the illumination unobtrusive.
  • Optics: A lens gathers the reflected light and images the environment onto the image sensor. An optical band pass filter only passes the light with the same wavelength as the illumination unit. This helps suppress background light.
  • Image sensor: This is the heart of the TOF camera. Each pixel measures the time the light has taken to travel from the illumination unit to the object and back. Several different approaches are used for timing; see types of devices above.
  • Driver electronics: Both the illumination unit and the image sensor have to be controlled by high speed signals. These signals have to be very accurate to obtain a high resolution. For example, if the signals between the illumination unit and the sensor shift by only 10 picoseconds, the distance changes by 1.5 mm. For comparison: current CPUs reach frequencies of up to 3 GHz, corresponding to clock cycles of about 300 ps - the corresponding 'resolution' is only 45 mm.
  • Computation/Interface: The distance is calculated directly in the camera. To obtain good performance, some calibration data is also used. The camera then provides a distance image over a USB or Ethernet interface.

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