LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a sensing technology that uses light in the form of a beamed laser to measure the distance in high precision. Technically lidars are pretty impressive computer vision devices that historically uses expensive hardware and are difficult to manufacture. If you want to know more about a LiDAR system have a look at ExplainThatStuff.
Available LiDAR technology and cost
Lidars are expensive and can easily reach the cost of $100 000. One of the most well known manufacturers is Velodyne. The cheapest Lidar on the market is Leica’s BLK360 which can be yours for a round $18,500 (Leica online store). The BLK360 captures 360,000 points per second, panoramic HDR imagery, and has thermal imaging capability. The range is up to 60 meters.
Having all of this in mind, the announcement that Intel has released their newest addition to the Realsense family is great to those who are looking for affordable Lidar technology. Realsense LiDAR Camera L515 is now available to pre order for just $349.
The sensor is designed to meet robotics, 3D scanning and logistics applications requirements. The L515 is made for indoors applications and has hardware synchronisation feature. This allows multiple cameras to share field of view. Many of us in the volumetric video arena are wondering the ways it can be applied to affordably produce better results. With just a matter of time when it will be integrated into such volumetric capture systems as EF EVE.
Intel Realsense L515 specifications
Intel is using their proprietary micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) mirror scanning technology. It allows cameras’ laser beams to focus on the proprietary MEMS mirror which vibrates and reflects the laser light scanning the whole environment vertically and horizontally. The mirror is also resistant to shock, temperature and vibration.
LiDAR Camera L515 captures 9.2 million depth points per second in 640 x 480 resolution, with a 95% reflectivity range of 0.25 to 9 m, and 23.6 million depth points per second in 1024 x 768 resolution, with a 95% reflectivity range of 0.25 to 6.5 m. Exposure time is <100 ns per depth point. The L515’s laser runs at 860 nm. The maximum capture range is 9 metres.
If we compare this to lets say Azure Kinect which is now being widely used for volumetric capture the numbers are not great. But this is old news when talking about LiDAR technology. Azure Kinect can give around 2,5 Million points in HD quality per frame and around 12 million points in 4K resolution. While Intel gives 307K points. However, we are to find out if using more LiDAR Camera L515 could compensate for such a big difference. Looking at Azure Kinect specs you can compare both devices:
Also it has an RGB camera with rolling shutter OV2740 CMOS which can provide up to 1920 x 1080 resolution at up to 30 fps. However, with 1280 x 720 and below resolution it can achieve up to 60 fps.It is also the World’s smallest lidar camera.LiDAR Camera L515 comes with an open source SDK and very affordable price tag. Therefore, it is great news for those who can’t wait to put their hands on it and start testing this for volumetric capture SDK 2.0 is open-source.