Depth & 3D sensing technologies

Structured light, passive/active stereovision, integrated Time of Flight, direct Time of Flight or intensity proximity? A wide range of optical sensing techniques exist to sense distance and capture 3D scenes, and all have different trade-offs. ams OSRAM enables designers to choose and implement the solution that matches their application best, through a comprehensive portfolio of illuminators, sensors and drivers. 

Cameras capture 2D images. Depth sensors add distance. 

From touchless taps to AR/VR headsets, robots and self-driving vehicles – products that “see” the world around them are becoming ever more ubiquitous. 

Camera sensors are the first technology of choice to make products that can “see”. However, a camera alone can only capture a 2D image. In practice, the world is three dimensional. To work, most of these applications need to also know depth.  For example: touchless taps need to know the distance of a hand, robots and autonomous vehicles need to detect distance to objects to avoid collisions, and Augmented Reality experiences need a 3D map of the real world scene. 

Depth sensing techniques directly measure distance from the sensor to objects around. Where needed, this can be combined with 2D image data to build up a full 3D map of the scene, and 6 degree of freedom position within it, using techniques such as Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) 


Multiple optical distance sensing techniques. Multiple tradeoffs. 

Camera, LIDAR and intensity proximity techniques can be used to optically sense distance. Choosing the right one is a trade off between range, robustness, resolution, power, size and cost; as shown in the table below. 

Camera systems 

Triangulation of distance to features in the scene, or projected dots, using camera images taken from multiple positions. 

ams OSRAM offers image sensors, micro cameras, flood and dot illuminator modules to enable passive stereovision, structured light and active stereovision sensing systems. 

LIDAR systems 

Direct measurement of optical path length from laser, to a target, and back to a receiver. 

ams OSRAM offers fully integrated dToF modules and iToF VCSEL illuminators for short range applications; and lasers to enable long range dToF and FMCW LIDAR systems. 

Intensity Proximity 

Very short distances can be approximately measured by pulsing an IR emitter and measuring the reflected energy from a target. 

ams OSRAM offers fully integrated digital proximity sensors and modules.