Skin-detecting 3D semantic camera takes home award

Low powered lasers could enable the autonomous revolution we've been waiting for.

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A French company called Outsight has won a prestigious PRISM Award for its 3D Semantic Camera technology. The award was given by world specialists in laser and photonics and adds to awards won by the company at CES 2020. 

The recognition draws further attention to the company's so-called "semantic camera." Semantic cameras, which can differentiate the material makeup of different objects, could play an important role in future robotic applications, and in particular in Level 4 and 5 self-driving cars. In the near term, likely applications include man-controlled machines like construction and mining equipment and helicopters. 

"Our 3D Semantic Camera is not only able to tackle current driving safety problems, but bring unique value to markets like infrastructure management," Raul Bravo, the company's president and cofounder, told ZDNet in September of last year. "With being able to unveil the full reality of the world by providing information that was previously invisible, we at Outsight are convinced that a whole new world of applications will be unleashed. This is just the beginning."

Outsight's innovation is a low-powered laser embedded in a single autonomous device capable of scanning an environment and registering the chemical composition of objects. That kind of granular understanding of a scene could be vital in helping machines make appropriate decisions in fast-moving situations. The company's pitch is that the same sensor offers an "all-in-one" solution that simultaneously perceives and understands the environment from hundreds of meters with precision, including identifying whether an object is skin, cotton, ice, snow, plastic, metal, wood, etc. It's particularly adept at identifying and following moving elements, making it useful in self-driving applications.

For autonomous vehicle developers, that makes the camera a welcome new sensor in a lineup that's been heavily reliant on LiDAR, which has range issues, and visual camera technologies, which have difficulty functioning in low light.

Outsight has already begun joint development programs with leading OEMs and suppliers in the automotive, aerospace and security markets. At CES 2020, ADP also announced having chosen Outsight 3D for monitoring the flows at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport.