Ouster Adds Camera Functionality to its LiDAR

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Ouster releases a software update that adds an IR camera functionality to its LiDAR. The company co-founder Angus Pacala writes: "Our OS-1 lidar now outputs fixed resolution depth images, signal images, and ambient images in real time, all without a camera. The data layers are perfectly spatially correlated, with zero temporal mismatch or shutter effects, and have 16 bits per pixel and linear photo response.

The OS-1’s optical system has a larger aperture than most DSLRs, and the photon counting ASIC we developed has extreme low light sensitivity so we’re able to collect ambient imagery even in low light conditions. The OS-1 captures both the signal and ambient data in the near infrared, so the data closely resembles visible light images of the same scenes, which gives the data a natural look and a high chance that algorithms developed for cameras translate well to the data.

Anyone who has worked on lidar and visual odometry will grasp the value of the redundancy embodied in this result. Lidar odometry struggles in geometrically uniform environments like tunnels and highways, while visual odometry struggles with textureless and poorly lit environments. The OS-1’s camera/lidar fusion provides a multi-modal solution to this long standing problem.

It’s results like these that make us confident that well fused lidar and camera data are much more than the sum of their parts, and we expect further convergence between lidars and cameras in the future.
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