Smart sensor reference design for Project Tango

Paul Boughton

Israeli startup Inuitive has developed a smart sensor reference design for Google’s Project Tango, writes Nick Flaherty.

The reference design is a compact sized module that uses Inuitive’s NU3000 to serve as the processing engine for 3Dsensing and smart sensor hub in Project Tango. This multi-core processor can extract real time depth from stereo, as well as process the depth images together with other sensors in a real time localization and mapping solution. The reference design module contains two cameras for a stereoscopic view, a fish-eye camera for 2D wide-angle imaging and an inertial motion unit. This offers a complete solution that covers both real time depth sensing and smart sensor hub functionalities – to calculate localisation and mapping information.

Google’s recently released a Project Tango Tablet Development Kit, in the form of a seven-inch tablet, to develop applications for Tango systems.

“We are excited to be part of the Project Tango ecosystem. Our unique technology and architecture serve the Project Tango concept is many aspects: starting from real time depth generation, going all the way to efficiently executing mapping, localisation, navigation and demanding signal processing algorithms.” said Shlomo Gadot, CEO and Co-Founder of Inuitive. “This collaboration with Google allows Inuitive to pursue the mobile market from a unique position, as Tango enabling technology providers. We will help realise Tango concept into a consumer market technology.”

The NU3000 is a multi-core processor, optimised for depth sensing, 3D image processing and computer vision in mobile environments. It can interface and manage three cameras - two as a stereo depth source, and one as an RGB sensor. It can also process all three video streams in real time, generating a high quality depth image from the stereo, assigning colour to the depth images, and executing high-level processing on all available video streams. The NU3000 architecture combines dedicated hardware accelerators with vector DSPs to allow a power efficient execution of depth sensing as well as higher-level algorithms and applications. 

NU3000 can manage, synchronise, time stamp various sensors as well as execute real-time Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping algorithms. In a Project Tango system the processor serves as the core depth generating engine, together with a smart sensor hub, and serve as the primary processor of the mapping and localisation algorithms.