Revolutionary research into 3D sensors in robotics

Alumni work together with VUB on new technology

Two VUB alumni have reached a major milestone on their entrepreneurial path. The Vrije Universiteit Brussel, its Department of Electronics and Informatics (ETRO), VUB BruBotics and Brussels-based start-up VoxelSensors are jointly starting the research programme SPECTRE. VoxelSensors was founded by VUB alumni Ward van der Tempel and Johannes Peeters and entrepreneur Andre Miodezky. The aim of SPECTRE is to study 3D sensors in robotics and enable adoption of the technology in this field. The project is supported by Innoviris, the public organisation that funds research and innovation in the Brussels region.

Ward van der Tempel and Johannes Peeters’ adventure with the VUB began more than 15 years ago. In 2004, Ward started his PhD on “Current-assisted sensor devices for 3D Time-of-Flight (ToF) imaging”, which he successfully completed in 2011.

Also in 2004, a research team was formed at ETRO to explore the potential of using CMOS imaging technology to produce 3D sensors. Years later, the team’s research proved successful. New ToF technology (called CAPD) was invented and protected with a patent. After which, the first sensors, systems, cameras, and software were produced.

The students involved in this project, including Ward van der Tempel, took advantage of funding from the Brussels Capital Region, intended to support graduates and PhD students in setting up innovative companies. In 2009, for example, the spin-off company Optrima was founded, supported by the VUB’s technology transfer office and based on the original intellectual property developed by the team during their research at the VUB. Andre Miodezky was then brought in as CEO.

In parallel with the research project, Johannes Peeters started his education at the VUB and obtained his Master of Science in Civil Engineering in 2010. As part of his curriculum, he took the entrepreneurship course at the VUB. Optrima became his case study in the process. He went on to investigate the market applicability of 3D ToF sensors. He did that research work to his full satisfaction: Johannes Peeters became Optrima’s first employee.  It was the beginning of a long-term friendship between Ward, Andre, and Johannes.

Establishment of VoxelSensors

The three founded VoxelSensors on 11 March 2020, a day before the first Covid closure.  They chose Brussels as their headquarters to take advantage of its central location in Europe, support from the Brussels Capital Region, and proximity to the VUB to set up research projects.

For the next two years, the company deliberately operated under the radar. It used this time to further develop its Switching Pixels technology and make a breakthrough in the industry.

VoxelSensors’ ambition is to revolutionise the 3D Perception market. Switching Pixels sensors can be used in a variety of applications: augmented and virtual reality (XR/VR/AR) for professional and consumer applications to blend the physical and virtual worlds; improving autonomous mobility with anti-collision and pathfinding for robotics, autonomous navigation vehicles; and optimising industrial automation enabling factory floors where humans and robots can safely work together

VoxelSensors steps up to the VUB

In 2021, VoxelSensors presented their prototype at the VUB, after which they entered into a first project with ETRO Prof Adrian Munteanu. In 2022, VoxelSensors engaged with the VUB in a research project with Prof. Adrian Munteanu and Prof. Bram Vanderborght.  With the support of Innoviris, they will research software algorithms, validate Switching Pixels technology in robotics and create open-source software and application notes to facilitate industrial and academic adoption.