Archives for April 2017

Tesla Autonomous Cars Keep Relying on Cameras

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TED interview with Elon Musk has a couple of interesting notes about Tesla autonomous car plans:

"Tesla Model 3 is coming in July, Musk says, and it’ll have a special feature: autopilot. Using only passive optical cameras and GPS, no LIDAR, the Model 3 will be capable of autonomous driving. “Once you solve cameras for vision, autonomy is solved; if you don’t solve vision, it’s not solved … You can absolutely be superhuman with just cameras.”

Musk says that Tesla is on track for completing a fully autonomous, cross-country LA to New York trip by the end of 2017. “November or December of this year, we should be able to go from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York, no controls touched at any point during the entire journey,” Musk says.
"

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Lund University Camera Reaches 20 Tera-fps Speed

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Lund University, Sweden, announces that its researches were able to achieve 200fs temporally resolving camera. Their paper has been accepted for publication in "Light: Science & Applications" journal and available on-line: "FRAME: femtosecond videography for atomic and molecular dynamics" by Andreas Ehn, Joakim Bood, Zheming Li, Edouard Berrocal, Marcus Aldén, and Elias Kristensson:

"In this Letter, we present a laser probe-based method that unifies the aforementioned aspects and is capable of producing a video sequence of non-repetitive dynamic events at femtosecond timescales and beyond for spectroscopy. Our method, called Frequency Recognition Algorithm for Multiple Exposures (FRAME), allows acquisition of a series of laser-induced images at frame rates that are limited only by the laser pulse duration. Here, we used femtosecond laser pulses to demonstrate videography with record high sub-ps (THz) temporal resolution, although attosecond laser pulses could, in principle, increase the frame rate into the PHz regime. The novelty of the FRAME concept lies in superimposing a structural code onto the illumination to encrypt a single event that is then deciphered in the data post-processing. Because each image in the video sequence is extracted by using a unique spatial code, the method does not rely on a specific optical wavelength or laser bandwidth, and hence can be used for spectroscopic measurements. Here, we provide a proof-of-principle demonstration of our method by performing imaging light-in-flight – often regarded as the gold standard experiment for ultrafast imaging at 5 THz, a timescale on which even light appears stationary on a macroscopic scale."




Although the paper talks about 200fs temporal resolution, the University demo shows 50fs time step between the frames of their video:

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Conversant NPE Buys 29 CIS Patents from Dongbu

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IAM-Media: Ottawa, Canada-based Conversant NPE has acquired 29 image sensor patents from Dongbu HiTek, USPTO assignments records reveal.

Dongbu’s somewhat unusual willingness to sell its IP seems to be related to previous debt problems and the financial woes of its parent, the Dongbu Group chaebol (conglomerate). In the previous years, IAM-Media identified Dongbu HiTek as one of the top 15 sellers of patents worldwide:

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Samsung to Add One More CIS Fab

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PulseNews: Samsung is to convert Line 11 in Hwaseong fab in Gyeonggi Province active since mid-2000s to CIS production starting the first half next year to meet growing demand for mobile imaging, high-end photography, and security and surveillance applications. Sony is said to have a solid lead on the CIS narket, controlling 44.5% of global supply including iPhones. Samsung is at second place with a share of 15% as it supplies the imagers for Samsung premium phones.

SeekingAlpha quotes Samsung representative on that: "we’re planning to convert Line 11 to CIS given the fact that strong image sensor demand...

And to give thorough detail about the CMOS image sensor CIS that we’ll be using part of Line 11 to produce as you know with the increased adoption of dual camera, the application has itself been growing and also in addition to these mobile cameras we’re also trying to expand the applications to VR automotive as well as 360 degree cameras. So to respond to market demand as well as customer request, we will be converting part of Line 11 for our CIS production. Our target is to start mass production first half of 2018 but that is subject to market demand as well as customer request."

Samsung Hwaseong plant

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Sony Reports FY2016 Results

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Sony reports its quarterly and yearly results. Few slides showing image sensor business status and the new year forecas:


From the Sony PR:

Results for a fiscal year ended on March 31, 2017:

"Sales increased 4.6% year-on-year (a 15% increase on a constant currency basis) to 773.1 billion yen (6,903 million U.S. dollars). This increase in sales was primarily due to a significant increase in unit sales of image sensors mainly for mobile products, partially offset by the impact of foreign exchange rates, a significant decrease in sales of camera modules, a business which was downsized, and the decrease in production due to the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes. Sales to external customers increased 10.1% year-on-year.

Operating loss of 7.8 billion yen (70 million U.S. dollars) was recorded, compared to operating income of 14.5 billion yen in the previous fiscal year. This significant deterioration in operating results was primarily due to the negative impact of foreign exchange rates, the above-mentioned expenses resulting from the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes, and a 6.5 billion yen (58 million U.S. dollars) write-down of inventories of certain image sensors mainly for mobile products. This deterioration was partially offset by the above-mentioned year-on-year increase in sales and the decrease in impairment charges against long-lived assets related to the camera module business.
During the current fiscal year, there was a 43.7 billion yen negative impact from foreign exchange rate fluctuations.
"

Last quarter results:

"In the Semiconductors segment, sales increased significantly due to an increase in unit sales of image sensors. Sales to external customers also increased significantly year-on-year."

Reuters comments
: "Image sensors have emerged as the biggest contributor to profit growth, as operations at a factory damaged by earthquakes a year ago return to normal just as smartphone makers are increasingly adopting dual-lens rear cameras in their handsets, requiring extra sensors.

"The market is growing for higher-end models with dual-lens rear cameras or with high-performance front cameras designed for self-shooting," Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida said at an earnings briefing. "That serves as a tailwind for us."

Sony forecast its chip division, which includes image sensors, to return to profit this year, at 120 billion yen.

To meet increased demand, it will more than double capital expenditure on image sensors to 110 billion yen, raising production capacity by 13.6 percent by the end of March.
"

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Hynix to Separate 8-inch Foundry Business

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ETNews: SK Hynix is separating its 8-inch Foundry Business Department as an independent subsidiary tentatively named "SK Hynix System IC". The 8-inch M8 fab has a capacity of 100K wafers per year and image sensors is one of its main specialties.

According to IHS, SK Hynix’s Foundry Business made about $140M in sales last year, less that 1% of the whole company sales of $15.2b. The foundry business registered a loss last year.

SK Hynix will continue production of high-megapixel image sensor products of over 13MP at its 12-inch M10 fab.

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Dynamic Photodiodes are Said to Save Power in Heartrate Sensors

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PRNewswire: Switzerland-based ActLight presents its Heartrate Sensor for wearables, said to reduce power consumption by 80% compared to what is currently available on the market, while delivering the same performance. The Heartrate sensor is based on ActLight's proprietary Dynamic Photo Diode (DPD) technology and has been developed in co-operation with a global MedTech semiconductor vendor and EPFL.

In smartwatches and wearables, up to 80% of the power consumption is said to be related to heartrate monitoring when it is activated. Already tested and calibrated, ActLight's heartrate sensor is ready to be produced in large series to equip next generation wearables with reduced power consumption.

"Increased interest in fitness and wellness - has necessitated more affordable, precise, wearable sensing options. Our technology offers unique competitive advantages to our partners when compared to existing Photo Diodes used in wearable heartrate solutions," stated Serguei Okhonin, CEO of ActLight. "ActLight is now working with a number of partners to bring this technology into consumer electronics and MedTech grade solutions. We are open for IP licensing of our patented DPD technology that we own 100%," Okhonin continued.

EPFL publishes an article and an Youtube video on the new product:

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ARM Announces 24b HDR Imaging and Vision Co-Processor

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Anandtech: ARM announces Mali-C71 ultra-wide dynamic range (UWDR) ISP with up to 24 stops DR for automotive camera applications. It removes noise and processes the multiple exposures from the camera, creates an ultra-WDR frame and sends it across to a display or a computer vision engine. The Mali-C71 is the first imaging product since ARM acquired Apical in 2016. OmniVision Technologies, a leading developer of advanced digital imaging solutions, has welcomed the development:

OmniVision has been closely collaborating with the ARM ISP team (formerly Apical) for several years now, and see the Mali-C71 as an important advancement in image signal processing for emerging automotive applications. ARM’s expertise in ISP technology together with OmniVision’s best-in-class HDR image sensor technologies offers an industry leading solution for our automotive customers,” said Will Foote, senior partnership manager, OmniVision.

The Mali-C71 brings advanced error detection with more than 300 dedicated fault detection circuits to enable system-level certification to the modern automotive standards (ISO26262, ASIL D and IEC 61508, SIL3). It is able to process up to 4 real-time cameras and 16 camera streams with a single pipeline:

Mali-C71 block diagram

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Cadence Vision DSP Certified as Khronos OpenVX 1.1 Conformant

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Cadence Tensilica Vision P-Series DSPs are said to be the first imaging/vision DSPs to pass Khronos Group’s conformance tests for the OpenVX 1.1 spec. This enables faster development of computer vision and imaging applications on Tensilica Vision P-Series DSPs being deployed in applications processors for mobile, automotive, drone, security, AR/VR and other markets. Applications developed using the standard OpenVX 1.1 API can be compiled and run on Tensilica Vision DSPs without any code changes.

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Cameras are 9.25% of Samsung Galaxy S8 Cost

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TechInsights completes its teardown report of Samsung Galaxy S8, and publishes an estimation of the phone's BOM. The cameras are about 9.25% of the BOM, down from 10% in the last year's S7:

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Need for Speed in Thermal Sensors

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SPIETV publishes FLIR presentation on fast thermal imagers and their applications:

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PCO Compares Image Sensors DR

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PCO DR whitepaper compiles a table comparing various image sensors DR. The rolling shutter BAE sCMOS sensor outperforms all global shutter alternatives on DR:

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Image Sensor Reliability, Variations, and Drifts over Time

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Albert Theuwissen has a unique experience with image sensor statistics and their parameters changing over time when his students run through the same devices characterization, course after course, year after year. So, he came up with a brilliant idea to present his knowledge in a report on CMOS sensors reproducibility, variability, and reliability. The first info about the report is expected to be available in a few weeks.

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Strategy Analytics on ADAS Camera Market

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Strategy Analytics presentation dated by Sept. 2016 forecasts a large growth for ADAS camera market:

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Academic and University News

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Prof. Shen Guozhen’s Group in Institute of Semiconductors, Chinese Academy of Sciences, with their collaborators in Hong Kong University of Science and Technology developed a flexible UV image sensor based on ZnO quantum dots (QDs) decorated ZTO nanowires (NWs). The device was fabricated on the flexible polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrate, which displayed outstanding flexibility, electrical stability and folding endurance.

Duo to the rational band engineering at the QD/NW interface which results in effective separation of electron-hole pairs, the device showed ultrahigh specific detectivity (up to 9.0 × 1017 Jones), photoconductive gain (up to 1.1 × 107) and high response speed (47 ms).


EETimes: Non-uniform spatial image sampling has been a popular idea over many decades. University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK, gives it another try in arxiv.org open-acess paper "Adaptive foveated single-pixel imaging with dynamic super-sampling" by David B. Phillips, Ming-Jie Sun, Jonathan M. Taylor, Matthew P. Edgar, Stephen M. Barnett, Graham G. Gibson, and Miles J. Padgett.

"In this work we take a different approach and adopt a strategy inspired by the foveated vision systems found in the animal kingdom - a framework that exploits the spatio-temporal redundancy present in many dynamic scenes. In our single-pixel imaging system a high-resolution foveal region follows motion within the scene, but unlike a simple zoom, every frame delivers new spatial information from across the entire field-of-view. Using this approach we demonstrate a four-fold reduction in the time taken to record the detail of rapidly evolving features, whilst simultaneously accumulating detail of more slowly evolving regions over several consecutive frames."

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Reuters Says that Sony Image Sensors Cost is Lower than Expected

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Reuters: Sony revises upward its annual profit estimation, in part due to the lower costs in its image sensor business. The official annual results for the company's fiscal year ended on March 31, 2017 are to be announced on April 28.

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Samsung Galaxy S8 Rear Camera Teardown

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TechInsights posted a teardown info on Galaxy S8 rear camera. The 12MP stacked dual pixel image sensor has been identified as one made by Sony, probably IMX333. Other Galaxy S8 phones might contain Samsung-made sensors.

The absence of dual camera in a flagship phone is said to save about $12.50 from the final BOM costs for Samsung.

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Analog Devices "Material Sensing Platform"

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Analog Devices one more time demos its IR spectrometer-based Material Sensing Platform for smartphones, developed together with Consumer Physics. The previous demo is here.

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Samsung Galaxy S8 Teardown Reveals Stand-Alone ISP, Iris Scanner Internals

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TechInsights publishes Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone reverse engineering article listing Samsung S5C73C3 image processors among the other chips on the PCB. The front camera with iris scanner module is shown on the images below:


The front camera is based on Sony stacked IMX320, while the iris scanner BSI sensor is marked as S5K5E6YV (or S5K5E6YV). Both sensors have pixel pitch of 1.12um.

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KAUST Interview with Eric Fossum

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King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia publishes an interview with Eric Fossum on CMOS sensor invention history and Quanta image sensor:

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Mobileye CEO Demos Self-Driving Car

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Mobileye CEO and Co-Founder Ziv Aviram demos his company self-driving car in the 360-deg surround video:



The full presentation at YPO Edge 2017 held in Vancouver, Canada can be seen here.

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Sony Unveils Full-Frame Stacked Sensor

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Sony presents a new A9 flagship full-frame ILC featuring 24MP stacked sensor. The stacking allows:

  • up to 20 fps speed,
  • viewfinder or display blackout-free shooting,
  • up to 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second,
  • silent vibration-free electronic shutter speeds up to 1/32000 sec.
  • Anti-Distortion Shutter operation that minimizes distortion of moving subjects
  • Full pixel array readout with no pixel binning for oversampled 4K 30p video



SonyAlphaRumors publishes a number of slides on the new image sensor:

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Sony Alpha A9 review

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Sony's Alpha A9 is a new flagship mirrorless camera with a 24 Megapixel full-frame sensor and fully electronic shutter featuring 20fps shooting, silent operation, 1/32000 shutter, 4k video, dual SD slots, bigger battery, touchscreen and AF joystick. I've been testing a final production sample, so check out my review-in-progress!…

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Fujifilm Instax SQ10 review

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The Fujifilm SQ10 is the latest Instax cameras which can output small instant prints. It's the first model in the series to output square photos and the first to employ a digital sensor and screen. Images are captured with a 3.6 MP sensor, after which you can apply a selection of filters before saving onto a Micro SD card or printing.…

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Panasonic Lumix TZ90 / ZS70 review

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The Lumix TZ90, or ZS70 as it's known in North America, is the latest in Panasonic's enormously successful pocket travel zoom series. It packs a 30x / 24-720mm zoom, 4k video, RAW files, built-in EVF and now features a tilting touchscreen and 20MP. Find out if it's for you in my review!…

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Yole on Mobile Camera Trends

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Yole Developpement publishes an article on mobile phone camera trends. Few quotes:

"First, it seems that in the recent years Apple has slowed down its innovation drive on the camera side, so competitors have been able to move ahead. This is the case for the dual camera setup on the rear side of the phones.

Second, the importance of biometry has had a direct impact on cameras, which are now potential biometric devices. Samsung has implemented a second front-side camera, in the same way Fujitsu had experimented with less than a year ago, in order to provide state of the art iris-recognition technology.

Third, the usage of the front camera is evolving quickly. We had mentioned in our CMOS Image Sensor report the selfie trend’s impact on front facing camera resolution. Companies like Oppo are surfing this wave by improving the performance of the front camera, and recently providing a dual front setup for the F3.
"

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Yole on 3D Imaging Market

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Yole Developpement releases report "3D Imaging and Sensing 2017." Few quotes from the flyer:

"In 2016 3D imaging & sensing devices became quite significant business wise, generating more than $1.3B in revenue. While Yole anticipated the advent of 3D imaging & sensing in consumer products by 2020, it seems the schedule has accelerated in recent months. 2018 will likely see a massive influx of products, with the first applications in mobile and computing. And with the iPhone8 expected to incorporate a front-facing 3D camera, 3D’s application as a user interface will finally be better understood. 3D imaging & sensing has made several consumer attempts in the past, i.e. the Kinect game accessory and the Leap motion gesture controller. This time around, we expect Apple to make it right and definitive. Augmented reality is an application, not hardware, and mobile will be the main benefactor of this innovation. Drones & Robots will also benefit from the situation. With a CAGR of 37.7% over the next five years, Yole Développement forecasts 3D imaging & sensing devices to reach $9B by 2022."

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3D Imaging and AF Application Drive VSCEL Market

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Yole Developpement IR light sources analysis shows that VCSEL market is set for a high growth due to wide adoption of 3D imaging and active ToF AF systems:

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Samsung Files New Batch of Color Splitter Patent Applications

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Samsung files another bunch of color splitter patent applications:
This is in addition to a previous bunch of the similar patent applications filed a year ago. The applications use the same basic structure:


"The refractive index of the color splitter may be about 1.4 to about 2.4.

The color splitter may include one of high refraction index materials from the group consisting of SiNx, TiO2, ZnS, and ZnSe, or an optical polymer including nanoparticles of the high refraction index materials dispersed in the optical polymer.
"

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Algolux Presents its ISP Tuning Solution

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Canadian startup company Algolux presents its ISP image quality tuning solution based on machine learning:

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