Microsoft Research Coaxes 3D Sensing From Inexpensive Cameras
Microsoft researchers use a combination of consumer 2D cameras, infrared LEDs and machine-learning software to enable 3D sensing on the cheap.If Microsoft Research has its way, inexpensive 3D sensing and motion control may be right around the corner. During SIGGRAPH 2014, the computer graphics conference that wrapped up Aug. 14, researchers at the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker and the Italian Institute of Technology showed off a novel, inexpensive way to turn a single consumer-grade camera into an instrument that can capture 3D data. The technology could make 3D-sensing, gesture-controlled PCs, tablets and smartphones commonplace. Microsoft already had a hit on its hands with its hacker-friendly, relatively low-cost Kinect motion sensor, originally a peripheral for the Xbox 360 that can translate a user's motions in 3D space into on-screen activity. Despite the Kinect's popularity among tech enthusiasts and a growing assortment of gesture controllers from other companies, 3D-sensing technology has yet to trickle down to mainstream users. In their technical paper, titled "Learning to Be a Depth Camera for Close-Range Human Capture and Interaction," the researchers argued that while "depth cameras are becoming more of a commodity, they have yet to (and arguably will never) surpass the ubiquity of regular 2D cameras, which are now used in the majority of our mobile devices and desktop computers." The group's technology could potentially overcome this stumbling block.
"We present a machine learning technique for estimating absolute, per-pixel depth using any conventional monocular 2D camera, with minor hardware modifications," they wrote.