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combines a piezo-electric ultrasound emitter and three discrete piezo-electric transceivers. Signal patterns are emitted at 40kHz and the time-of-flight of all the echoes are picked up distinctively by the three transceivers, at a nanosecond-level time resolution. “All of the hardware comes of-the-shelve, told us Bahnemann, “but the key IP resides in the clever algorithms we developed to perform a sort of reverse triangulation and translate the received signals into distance and shape attributes”. “These algorithms involve a lot of complicated Maths, yet with a simple hardware setup, we are able to acquire about 50,000 points per second”, he commented, attributing the algorithms to co-founder and business partner Alexander Rudoy. The algorithms took just over three years to develop before the two entrepreneurs were able to showcase a proof-of-concept back in March 2015. Bahnemann sees uses cases not only in robotics to navigate sensors through complex 3D environments, but also for motion detection and gesture control detection. Because the sensor module requires no optical components and is lightweight, it could substitute expensive and bulky laser and camera-based systems while drawing a mere 0.2W for operation and at a fraction of these systems’ price. Another added benefit of ultrasounds is that it preserves privacy, the results are grey-scale and only reveal depth. Compared to cameras, the sensors are unobtrusive, yet they could be used in shopping malls for customer behaviour analysis as well as for automotive anti-collision systems. Toposens aims to provide a software development kit during the first half of 2016 for potential application developers to integrate the 3D sensor technology into their products, with various interfaces and software applications at hand. The company was only founded three weeks ago and is actively seeking investors to fund the industrialisation of its sensor. Further on its roadmap, the startup is also aiming to develop a long range 3D radar, capable of providing real time 3D images of the surrounding areas at distances up to about 150-300m for autonomous driving applications. CMOS-based neural probes tackle single neurons By AJulien Happich t last IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting 2015, nanoelectronics research center imec, KU Leuven, and Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders (NERF, set up by VIB/KU Leuven and imec) presented a set of silicon neural probes that combine 12 monolithically integrated optrodes using a CMOS compatible process. The probes enable the optical stimulation and electronic detection of individual neurons, based on optogenetics techniques. They pave the way to a greater understanding Probe tip with activated light output of the brain and towards novel treatments for brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, and epilepsy. Currently available devices for recording neural activity to study the functioning of the brain typically have a limited number of electrical channels. Additionally, the brain is composed of many genetically and functionally distinct neuron types, and conventional probes cannot disambiguate recorded electrical signals with respect to their source. The researchers’ novel neural probes tackle these challenges, opening a new route towards greater understanding of the brain, while enabling novel treatment options for brain disorders. The new probes combine electronics and photonics to perform extremely sensitive measurements. The fully integrated implantable neural microsystems have advanced capabilities to detect, process and interpret neural data at a cellular scale. The systems feature a very high density of electrodes and nanophotonic circuits (optrodes). Such optrodes are used to optically stimulate single neurons using optogenetics, a technology in which neurons are genetically modified to make them light-sensitive and thus susceptible to stimulation through light pulses. This research is supported by the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT) through the Opto- Brain project. www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe January 2016 7


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