The familiar landscape of facial recognition technology, often tied to clunky projectors and lenses, is undergoing a sleek transformation. Researchers, as reported in ACS’ Nano Letters, have introduced a more refined 3D surface imaging system with flatter optics, diverging from the traditional bulky setup. This development comes as a response to the existing dot projector systems commonly used in smartphone facial recognition, which, despite their efficacy, tend to be relatively large for compact devices like smartphones.
The new approach, led by Yu-Heng Hong, Hao-Chung Kuo, Yao-Wei Huang, and their team, replaces the conventional dot projector with a low-power laser and a flat gallium arsenide surface. This replacement significantly trims down the size and energy requirements of the imaging device. The top of the thin metallic surface is etched with a nanopillar pattern, creating a metasurface that scatters light as it passes through, forming a pattern of 45,700 infrared dots.
In practical demonstrations, the prototype proved its mettle by accurately identifying a 3D replica of Michelangelo’s David, showcasing the potential of this system. What sets it apart is its efficiency in using five to 10 times less power and occupying a surface area about 230 times smaller than the common dot projector system.
The system, integrating a camera to interpret the infrared dot patterns, stands out as a compact and energy-efficient solution. The researchers emphasize the prototype’s applicability not only in facial recognition but also in realms like robotics and extended reality. This breakthrough emphasizes the effectiveness of metasurfaces in providing practical, small-scale, and low-power imaging solutions, marking a significant step forward in the evolution of facial recognition technology. The potential impact spans across various domains, promising a more streamlined and energy-conscious future for imaging applications.