Ever since the LidarLite went on indefinite backorder, we’ve been looking for a cheap and reliable alternative. Researchers from MIT and CSAIL are a couple months away from presenting this infrared depth sensing system using a cheap laser attached to a smartphone. They’re aiming big, with hopes to use this sensor for autonomous golf carts, wheelchairs, and drones.
“My group has been strongly pushing for a device-centric approach to smarter cities, versus today’s largely vehicle-centric or infrastructure-centric approach,” says Li-Shiuan Peh, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science whose group developed the system. “This is because phones have a more rapid upgrade-and-replacement cycle than vehicles. Cars are replaced in the timeframe of a decade, while phones are replaced every one or two years. This has led to drivers just using phone GPS today, as it works well, is pervasive, and stays up-to-date. I believe the device industry will increasingly drive the future of transportation.”