Many modern day applications in the 21st century have benefited from three-dimensional (3D) vision systems. These include robotics, which often use such vision capabilities in manufacturing, food-processing, and agriculture. Military applications often include finding and exploding bombs, while medical uses for 3D vision typically involve detailed imaging of the body during tests such as endoscopies. Imaging systems are often used with complex 3D software that processes the pictures and which can even help design sophisticated products in three dimensions.
Robots equipped with 3D vision are often used to pick and place parts during assembly, and can also place them on a conveyor. They sometimes move components into storage such as when automotive parts are organized before being put on an assembly line. Handling parts in general is more efficient using 3D vision, because using lasers with two-dimensional (2D) systems can take more time. Machinery that is used to pick, inpsect, or otherwise manipulate apples, eggs, or tomatoes, for example, often include robotics with complex vision systems.
Another application for 3D vision is in milking and disinfecting cows. The camera can be directly connected to a computer which tracks the robot as it enters a stall, attaches the milking equipment, and fills containers with milk. Remote-controlled robots used by the military often incorporate vision systems to locate and explode mines and other devices. The hazard to humans is typically eliminated and an operator can see the area viewed by the robot on a screen in detail.
Autonomous vehicles often include 3D vision systems in the electronic circuitry. These can triangulate targets for navigation as well as sense the surrounding terrain to avoid obstacles and find the safest routes. Software is often behind many 3D applications, and typically provides a way to interpret images picked up by a camera and command a machine in responding to the environment. Some serve as multidimensional design tools, such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs, for robotics and other machinery before they are built.
The uses of 3D vision are often expanded when new technologies arise. By 2010, a machine vision camera was developed that could produce stereo images in one device instead of two. It has one lens with a switching mechanism that blocks one-half of it at a time; left and right images can be captured without time-consuming and expensive software processing. The system also accommodates small imaging devices, such as telepresence equipment or endoscopy instruments.