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  • 3 Questions Interview

Photonics Spectra
Nov 2014
3 Questions Andre WongJDSU of Milpitas, Calif., recently won The Optical Society’s second annual Enabled by Optics competition for the company’s laser light source for 3-D sensing technologies.

For more insight into the winning entry, Photonics Spectra spoke with Dr. Andre Wong, director of product line management at JDSU. Wong is responsible for worldwide business development, marketing and product anagement for the company’s consumer and industrial diode laser products. In addition to his decade-plus career at JDSU, Wong has held product management positions at Omnex Control Systems and Fujitsu.

Wong received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, a Ph.D. in physics from the University of British Columbia, and an NSERC research fellowship in electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Photo courtesy of JDSU.

Q: What can you tell us about the technology that won the Enabled by Optics contest?

A: JDSU provides core optical technology that enables highly precise 3-D sensing capabilities. In addition to allowing consumers to control technology applications using body movements or gestures, our technology allows for much more subtle activities such as facial expressions and heart rate to be incorporated into various applications.

[This] technology is a key component in Microsoft’s development of the unique and custom optical design for Kinect One.The custom optical design includes the first time-of-flight 3-D camera. With time-of-flight technology, pulses of light are rapidly projected out from the Kinect sensor to detect and gather key information from a person that is then filtered back into a 3-D camera lens using low-angle shift optical filters from JDSU.

The newest near-infrared light source technology from JDSU that generates these invisible pulses of light does so at the highest power and fastest speed to allow for the improved sensing and high-resolution capabilities.

This light source technology from JDSU contributes to two key advances:

1. New active IR capability, [which] resolves issues that used to occur when room light would change. Now the system can detect and track users even in the dark.

2. High-definition 3-D map sensor, [which] can now track even small changes in depth and detect details like buttons on a shirt.

Designing this technology involved integrating 11 of these discrete IR devices onto a single chip. It’s an industry first in the lasers/optics industry to have developed the light source technology that performs at this level of power, performance and speed. We integrated many laser emitters onto a single chip, which is also an industry first.

It’s all about having a precise and efficient energy source. Our light source technology has evolved over the last decade so that it can be produced cost-effectively in large volumes while retaining its reliability and performance for these types of new applications.

Q: What are the implications of the work for society?

A: 3-D sensing, also known as gesture recognition, first took off in gaming and moved into use for controlling other TV applications [and] home entertainment, as well as into computer applications for communications. Today all operating systems are gesture enabled.

Now the mobile market is really up and coming – both the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the iOS 7 have gesture recognition capabilities.

It allows people a whole new freedom in the way they communicate and interact with technology, and it will likely continue to move into other new areas, such as in the dashboard of automobiles or for health care applications.

Q: What’s next?

A: The emergence of a cost-effective depth camera has generated interest beyond consumer electronics for industrial applications. Industrial uses include 3-D scanning of objects for logistics and industrial control, autonomous vehicle-robot navigation and 3-D scanning to detect presence on a factory line. JDSU has optical components to address these industries, as well as new small-form-factor lasers.

Enabled by Optics: student winners

OSA’s contest comprises two tracks – one for companies and one for students – and seeks to raise public awareness of the importance of optics and photonics in furthering innovation and positively impacting society. Entries were judged by a panel of experts, including members of OSA’s Corporate Associates Committee, researchers and businesspersons working in the optics industry.

This year, there was a tie for first place in the student category: Gustavo Almeida and a team of students at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, for their video, “Colors.” In it, they described how colors are produced on electronic displays by explaining the red, green and blue (RGB) additive method.

Ethan Bratton, a student at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Ark., was also named a first-place winner for his video, “What Happens When We Watch a Movie, or Play a Game?” In that video, he explains how a movie or game is stored on a disc and how a DVD player or game system reads the data on a disc using lasers.

Both student winners will receive a cash prize of $500.

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