Sensor technology is designed to allow machines to interact with real-world inputs, whether they are humans interacting with their smartphones, autonomous vehicles navigating on a busy street, or robots using sensors to aid in manufacturing. Not surprisingly, three-dimensional (3D) sensors, which allow a machine to understand the size, shape, and distance of an object or objects within its field of view, have attracted a lot of attention in recent months, thanks to their inclusion on Apple's most-advanced (to date) smartphone, the iPhone X, which uses a single camera to measure distance.
Indeed, the TrueDepth system, which replaces the fingerprint-based TouchID system on the Apple handset, shines approximately 30,000 dots outward onto the user's face. Then, an infrared (IR) camera captures the image of the dots, which provides depth information based on the density of the dots (closer objects display a dot pattern that is spread out, whereas objects that are farther away create a denser pattern of dots. Altogether, the placement of these dots creates a depth map with 3D data that is used to supply the system with the information it needs to check for a facial identity match, which then unlocks the device. The key advantage to this single-camera system and others like it is the relatively low cost of implementation.
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