The Onion Tau Depth Camera Offers an Affordable Entry Point to LIDAR-Like 3D Mapping

With an OpenCV-compatible Python library and a live-view web app, Tau aims to be the new entry point to 3D mapping applications.

Gareth Halfacree
4 months agoSensors

Boston-based Onion, known for its Omega family of single-board computers and the Omega2 Dash touchscreen dev board, is returning to crowdfunding with a brand-new design: a LIDAR depth camera system dubbed the Onion Tau.

"The Onion Tau Camera is a 3D depth camera," the company explains of its latest product. "Think of it like a regular webcam, except that it produces 3D depth data instead of color frames. It’s USB-based and plug-and-play, requiring no additional computation to produce depth data, so plug it into your computer with a USB cable, it will power on and start sending depth frames to your computer."

"The Tau is an affordable next step beyond single-point depth or one-dimensional scanner solutions, and serves as a great starting point for 3D depth sensing. In fact, the Tau strikes a great balance between affordability and functionality when compared to other offerings in the 3D depth mapping."

The LIDAR-style time-of-flight sensor used for the system outputs a real-time point cloud of depth data at a 160x60 resolution, plus greyscale imagery, with a 0.1m to 7m depth range and a 30 frames per second frame rate. For processing, Onion has promised a web-based application for viewing the point cloud along with a Python library and OpenCV-compatible application programming interface — both of which will be open source.

The bundled web app provides a live point-cloud view at 30 frames per second. (📹: Onion)

To order a Tau of your own, or find additional details, can be found on the Onion Tau Crowd Supply page.

UPDATE (12/18/2020): Onion has launched the campaign for Tau, which is now available for $179.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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