The rapidly evolving world of depth sensing technology, combined with recent innovations in AI, is bringing significant market disruption to a wide range of verticals.
Depth sensing technologies are often associated with mobile phones, at least in terms of public visibility. However, the story of depth sensing runs far deeper than that and is arguably one of the biggest market-shaping factors of the near future.
How big? A recent analyst report predicted that the worldwide depth sensing market will grow from $3.87bn in 2017 to $7.43bn by 2023, hitting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.64% during the period. There are a wide range of contributing factors to this growth rate, but the overarching trend is the relationship between depth-sensing and AI.
Robots Reap the Benefits
Depth sensing technologies have been around for a while, in a slew of applications including robotics, automated vehicles and industrial applications. In the search to achieve reliable autonomous operation the value of accurate plotting and mapping is extremely high, and once paired with Edge AI systems to enable the data to be processed, modelled and made actionable, the potential is strong.
However, until relatively recently, depth-sensing technology relied on emission or laser-based hardware components, which are physically cumbersome and relatively costly. Moreover, these systems have various operational limitations, in controlled environments, for example. This changed with the wide availability of powerful, integrated solutions such as the upcoming VIA Edge AI 3D Developer Kit, which embeds Lucid’s proprietary 3D Fusion Technology to enable the capture of accurate depth and 3D with dual- or multi-camera setups – thus reducing the costs, power, and space consumption required.
The fact that relatively low-unit cost camera arrays can now be used for depth sensing has led to an explosion of interest in developing new applications. Lower power and lighter weight sensors mean that drone and robotics uses are opened up, while smaller form factors mean easier and wider integration into autonomous vehicles of all types. In the future, time-of-flight camera sensors should widen the options for developers even further, dropping the power requirements of 3D plotting and mapping considerably.
Logistics Deepening AI Support
These market factors are also encouraging adoption of depth sensing technology in areas such as warehousing and fulfilment, where cost per unit is a significant factor. This market segment in particular has seen a significant uptick in developer interest in Edge AI solutions with depth sensing, as these technologies potentially enable far more efficient stock management, physical space management and lower network demands. The capability to navigate, save and reconstruct spaces in 3D, and thus make near-real time ‘decisions’, is creating a quiet undercurrent of innovation in the fulfilment industry.
Large logistics firms such as Meituan and Cananio are leading the charge in developing automated edge AI solutions in this area, designed to raise supply chain efficiency, facilitate next-day delivery (and omnichannel fulfilment), as well as managing costs
Security at the Edge
Of course, there are significant security applications for improved 3D plotting and depth sensing. Existing dual-cameras – paired with systems such as the VIA Smart Retail Engagement System – are capable of sophisticated facial recognition performance. But crucially, improving depth sensing helps to combat potential facial recognition spoofing (e.g. trying to fool a camera system using a high-resolution face photo or similar digital likeness), thereby boosting real-world security and utility.
This additional security means that facial recognition – already in use for VIP recognition in high-profile locations – can be potentially used as a payment biometric. Just one example is fast-food retailer Yum China’s concept store in Hangzhou, where a ‘Smile to Pay’ system allows registered customers to pay for their food with a smile, not only providing a fast, convenient, hands-free payment experience, but one that is likely to improve customer satisfaction to boot.
‘Market disruptor’ is a much-overused term. But in the case of the depth sensing technologies of today, it is no exaggeration.
By lowering the barriers to developers of all levels and sizes, complete development solutions like the VIA Edge AI 3D Developer Kit are creating a quiet revolution. Combined with the flexibility and power of Edge AI, a new generation of 3D-capable devices and autonomous sensors are beginning to arrive, and they are set to dramatically transform a huge range of sectors. They will drive efficiency, improve response times and reduce waste – a set of credentials that have never been more important to modern businesses.