|Subtype||Mini Clip-on Camera|
|Field of View||110 Degrees|
|Tracking||Real-time Motion Tracking|
|Sensors||Two 720p RGB Sensors|
|Release Date||November 2017|
The ZED Mini, which is half the size of its parent camera, will convert the VR HMDs into kits that can function as high-end augmented reality headsets of the future. The ZED Mini, depth and motion sensing camera, is scheduled for a November release.
Turning Virtual Reality Headset into an Augmented Reality Headset
Stereolabs has created a smaller version of its famous ZED Stereo Camera so that it can be easily fastened on a virtual reality headset. Mounting this small device on a virtual reality headset instantly gives it augmented reality capabilities. At present, AR headsets don’t come cheap. Even low-end AR gadgets cost hundreds of dollars, and some cost even more. The ZED Mini Camera could actually save thousands of dollars.
The ZED Mini is a lot like the ZED Camera. The two cameras mimic the function of the human eyes. The cameras are spaced accordingly. The camera comes with 110-degree FOV and two 720p RGB sensors. No external sensors or cameras are used in ZED Mine, as the gadget uses a special depth-sensing technology developed by Stereolabs. Explaining the depth-sensing process, Stereolabs’ co-founder and CEO, Cecile Schmollgruber, said that the technology uses the point of view of the right and left cameras and measures the distance of the objects in the surrounding environment. The ZED Mini is attached to the HMD using a compatible mount and is connected to the headset using a USB Type-C cable.
How is the ZED Mini Camera different from AR headsets?
The ZED Mini Camera does pass-through stereo video whereas the augmented reality headsets like the HoloLens use Magic Leap technology or display images on translucent screens.
Wearing the ZED Mini Camera, the world will look more realistic as the pixels are imposed on the real world images. This pass-through experience is quite different from the semi-transparent look that ‘transparent’ AR technology generates.
A Glimpse into the Future
Two of the biggest tech giants, Google and Apple, are attempting to bring augmented reality tracking capabilities to phones by launching software Development Kits like ARCore and ARKit. Although a very big step in the right direction, consumer-version of high-end AR headsets are still a few years away. Augmented reality headsets that are currently available, like the ODG R8 and HoloLens, lack the necessary features. At present, most AR headsets come with 40-degree FOV, which is far lower than the 100-degree FOV that’s commonly found in VR headsets.
The ZED Mini mounted on a VR headset gives a glimpse into the future. The ZED Mini plus VR headset combination emulates the kind of immersive experience and functions (environment mapping, real-time tracking, and wide FOV) we expect from AR headsets in the future.
The ZED Mini Camera comes with a mount to attach it to the VR headsets like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The two cameras in the gadget are separated by a significant distance. The distance of 65mm is quite close to the normal Interpupillary Distance of around 63mm. The close ‘human IPD average’ camera set up allows perfect pass-through stereo video into the virtual reality headset.
Additionally, the ZED Mini Camera uses the images received from the two cameras (two different images) to create a depth-map of the captured scene. If Stereolabs‘s claim is to be believed, the camera is equipped with impressive depth detection capabilities. ZED Mini can detect depth up to 49 feet (15 meters).
Furthermore, the surrounding environment’s real-time geometric map is generated by the camera and the same is fused with the onboard IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit). This way, it becomes easier to track the position of the headset within the augmented reality space.
The Best Features of the ZED Mini Camera
- The new Ultra Mode facilitates high-definition depth mapping
- The aluminum frame adds strength and solidity to the camera
- Performs motion tracking with the help of built-in 6-DoF IMU
- Cameras spaced 6.5cm (65mm) apart; the distance pretty close of the 6.3cm (63mm) human IPD average
- Use of USB Type-C ensures reliable and fast data transfer
- Compatible with ZED Stereo API
Launch Date and Price
Stereolabs opened pre-orders for the ZED Mini Camera in mid-September. The package, that includes the ZED Mini camera, the USB 3.0 cable, and quick start guide, is priced at $449. The company has announced that it’ll start shipping the product in November 2017.