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Applications for 4D imaging

4D Imaging

July 20, 2021

3D imaging is a norm nowadays, and we looked a little at this in our previous blog, Selecting a camera for your machine vision application. It’s used widely in industrial inspection, machine vision and obstacle avoidance technology, to name but a few applications.

There are several different imaging techniques used in 3D imaging, including Time of Flight (ToF) cameras, stereo vision and structured-light.

4D imaging introduces the element of capturing movement over time to image processing, and it’s becoming more commonplace. 2D or 3D images are captured in inaccessible locations such as inside the human body or underground using ultrasound, radiation, laser or other methods. Image data is then processed and algorithms applied to generate a real-time moving image. It’s like putting  a video camera in places where you couldn’t actually put one.

Advancing vision in healthcare
4-dimensional imaging first become a common concept in the world of ultrasound when prenatal clinics started to offer 4D imaging to enable parents to see their unborn baby move in 3D within the womb.

It’s now used widely in medical imaging for the diagnosis and monitoring of tumours. Doctors can obtain a clear and precise image of the organs in question and can use 4D techniques in patient positioning to deliver more accurate and targeted treatment with less damage to adjacent tissue. For example, GE Healthcare have developed Advantage 4D, a software application that enables radiation therapy to be less negatively impacted by patient movement, whether that’s the natural breathing function or involuntary movement within the scanner.

4D imaging in microscopy
Life scientists are adding a temporal dimension to spatial microscopy to visualize cell movement in 4D. A few different methods have been developed, including 4D ultrafast electron microscopy and a team of French researchers have recently published an article on 4D photoluminescence microscopy based on single pixel imaging. These techniques are giving us new and exciting insight that will inevitably advance medical and scientific research hugely.

4D for Industry 4.0
Industrial inspection is the latest sector to embrace 4D imaging. Inspecting parts or pipelines in 4D means that engineers can monitor them for changes under stress and easily identify weak or flawed components. This can be enhanced further with the use of polarization techniques.

AI is joining the mix in some robotic applications. Programmers can use machine learning along with the more accurate 4D imaging to allow robotics to make better informed decisions in real-time, unlike the time-lapse restraints of 3D imagining alone. Apera have developed 4D vision technology from 2D cameras and advanced software to deliver benefits to pick-and-place robots. The technology boasts sub-millimeter pose estimation accuracy, leading to near-perfect gripping each time. CEO Armin Khatoonabadi explains how “the 2D camera captures the scene and then the AI extracts 2D information such as shadows, edges, texture and color – like a human would – while performing object recognition and pose estimation. Then a pose of the object is sent to the robot to help it better perform the task like a 3D camera would”[1]. Some may question whether this addition of smartness over movement is true 4D vision, but certainly such technologies will influence the development and adoption of industry 4.0 strategies.

Autonomous vehicles and 4D imaging radars
In January 2021, Animesh Kumar, Director of Automotive Consulting at GlobalData, suggested that “4D imaging radars enhance autonomous vehicle performance by delivering multimodal capabilities and make vehicles safer. The technology is expected to emerge as a key attribute supplementing the future growth and adoption of autonomous vehicles.”[2] 4D imaging radars support a large RF channel array and enable multiple 4D data points per frame to be obtained, delivering more accurate information on velocity, range, azimuth and elevation. It’s not surprising that the autonomous vehicle sector has found novel uses for this cutting-edge technology as the race to bring self-driving cars to reality continues apace.

Image processing technology for every application
Active Silicon offers an extensive range of cameras, adapters and processor boards suitable for industrial inspection, medical imaging, life science, automotive uses and more. View our products and contact us with your vision requirements. If we don’t have an off-the-shelf solution, our technical experts can custom design and manufacture one.

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[1] https://www.controleng.com/articles/4d-visions-benefits-for-robotic-automation/

[2] 4D imaging radar technology provides game-changing safety for autonomous vehicles, says GlobalData – GlobalData