Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed an ultrafast high-contrast camera that could help self-driving cars and drones see better in extreme road conditions and in bad weather.
Developed by Assistant Professor Chen Shoushun from the university’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, the camera — called Celex — is now in its fourth and final prototype phase.
The camera, named Celex, has the ability to instantly analyze captured scenes, highlighting important objects and details to allow drones and cars to automatically adjust to the road or flight pattern. It can process more than 100 frames per second, compared to the usual 30 frames per second for self-driving vehicles to “see” and analyse their environment.
NTU says the smart camera records the slightest movements and objects in real time by changing light intensity between scenes at nanosecond intervals—faster than conventional video and unlike optical cameras that can be blinded by bright light and unable to make out details in the dark.
Typical cameras for drones and cars have sensors that record light information and use millions of pixels to form a resulting picture. High-speed cameras record up to 120 frames or photos per second that are process by a computer in order for self-driving vehicles to see and analyze the environment.
Celex records the changes between light intensity of individual pixels at its sensor, reducing the data output. This avoids the needs to capture the whole scene like a photograph, thus increasing the camera’s processing speed, NTU officials said. The camera sensor also has an integrated processor that analyzes the flow of data instantly to differentiate between the foreground objects and the background. This give self-driving vehicles more time to react to any oncoming vehicles or obstacles.
Celex also has the potential to be used for security and surveillance, as well as for robotics such as in robots that are programmed to do cleaning work.
Video produced by NTU Singapore start-up Hillhouse Technology, can be seen in the video below.