Cambridge Mechatronics to Unveil its 3D Camera Module Soon

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Cambridge Mechatronics (CML) is preparing its own 3D camera module with 10m depth range:

"Apple’s technology is different to that used previously by other smartphone brands. The LiDAR module collects data from around six hundred points of emitted light. In addition to images from other cameras in the handset, this information is processed by the neural engine in the iPhone to simulate detailed depth data of the scene up to five metres away.

CML has also been working on long range 3D sensing. Using our patented technology, we have developed a module that collects three hundred thousand data points at a range of ten metres. No supporting information is required from other cameras to deliver the 3D experience. The high resolution of the depth map in CML’s solution removes the necessity to pass it through a neural engine, making it a simple solution to include in smartphones and other products.

By extending range from five to ten metres, augmented reality can be applied to more of the surroundings, opening up an even greater number of applications and a more realistic, immersive experience. This gives even more freedom and opportunities for apps developers.

We will be promoting our 3D sensing modules to the market shortly."

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poLight AF Reverse Engineering

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SystemPlus publishes a reverse engineering report of poLight AF lens:

"This is a radical technology shift in the camera module world, thanks to the exceedingly small volume of the autofocus. It measures only 8.4mm3, and with a thickness of 0.45mm can be easily integrated in small systems like drones, smartphones, smart watches, etc. We discovered this autofocus in Xiaomi’s latest smartwatch for kids: the Mitu 4 Pro.

The assembly of this autofocus on an 8Mpixels camera module is detailed in our study. Thanks to the PZT, it is faster than the traditional electromechanical autofocus, allowing for almost instantaneous autofocus autofocus adjustment. And with no mechanical parts aside from the membrane, the MEMS autofocus seems more robust than mechanical systems, which is vital in products for children.

The piezoelectric membrane is manufactured by STMicroelectronics, which specifically developed PZT technology to add to its MEMS technology portfolio. Another specific MEMS process is the transducer, which is manufactured on glass membranes etched by micromachining – another specialty of STMicroelectronics.

The secret of this first MEMS autofocus is not only in the piezoelectric material. The design, manufacturing, and characteristics of the polymer used for the lens were developed and patented by poLight, and these things are key for the functionality of the autofocus component."

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SeeDevice Updates its Comparisons

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SeeDevice added few more comparisons of its Quantum Tunneling PAT-PD imager with CMOS sensors:

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Michael Tompsett and Bell Labs Receive Emmy Award for the First CCD Imager

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Cape Cod Chronicle and Nokia Bell Labs report that The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 2020 technical Emmy award winners goes to imaging CCD inventors Michael Tompsett and Bell Labs. Tompsett's invention of CCD imager launched the digital imaging industry and was used in the first commercially available digital cameras.

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Huawei Mate 40 Features Always-On Front Camera

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Huawei announces its Mate 40 series smartphones with new camera features. The front camera implements an always-on vision-based user interface:

"HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro and HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro+ are set to revolutionise how consumers integrate smartphones into their lives with new user-centric features including Smart Gesture Control, which allows total hands-free control of your device. Simply hover your hand over the device to wake it up or navigate your phone by swiping left, right, up and down. There is also an air press gesture for call answering.

A device that is always there for you, the all new dynamic Eyes on Display on HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro and HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro+ can be activated at a glance, with fully customisable interactive displays hosting all the information you need from your phone. The ring of incoming calls can be reduced by making eye contact with your phone."

Here are official Huawei demos of its low-power vision camera:

 

Few other innovations in Mate 40 cameras:

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Smartsens Raises $225M

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OTCbeta, DoNews: Smartsens receives a new investment from China National Integrated Circuit Industry Big Fund Phase II, Xiaomi Yangtze River Industry Fund, and Anxin Investment. This follows an early August 2020 investment from Hubble Investment fund under Huawei.

Update: DealStreetAsia reports that the new investment is approximately 1.5b RMB (about $225M).

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Paper on CG Improvements

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Assim Boukhayma (Senbiosys & EPFL) publishes an Arxiv.org paper "Conversion Gain Enhancement in Standard CMOS Image Sensors."

"This paper focuses on the conversion gain (CG) of pixels implementing pinned photo-diodes (PPD) and in-pixel voltage follower in standard CMOS image sensor (CIS) process. An overview of the CG expression and its impact on the noise performance of the CIS readout chain is presented. CG enhancement techniques involving process refinements and pure circuit design and pixel scheme optimization are introduced. The implementation of these techniques in a 180 nm CIS process demonstrates a progressive enhancement of the CG by more than a factor 3 with respect to a standard reference pixel from the same foundry, allowing a better understanding of the different parasitic elements on the sense node capacitance and CG."

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Nanorod-based CMY CFA

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 Arxiv.org paper "A new CMY camera technology using Al-TiO2-Al nanorod filter mosaic integrated on a CMOS image sensor" by Xin He, Y. Liu, P. Beckett, H. Uddin, A. Nirmalathas, and R. R. Unnithan from e University of Melbourne, RMIT University, and  Australian National Fabrication Facility proposes to revive complementary color CFAs:

"A CMY colour camera differs from its RGB counterpart in that it employs a subtractive colour space of cyan, magenta and yellow. CMY cameras tend to performs better than RGB cameras in low light conditions due to their much higher transmittance. However, conventional CMY colour filter technology made of pigments and dyes are limited in performance for the next generation image sensors with submicron pixel sizes. These conventional filters are difficult to fabricate at nanoscale dimensions as they use their absorption properties to subtract colours. This paper presents a CMOS compatible nanoscale thick CMY colour mosaic made of Al-TiO2-Al nanorods forming an array 0.82 million colour pixels of 4.4 micron each, arranged in a CMYM pattern. The colour mosaic was then integrated onto a MT9P031 monochrome image sensor to make a CMY camera and the colour imaging demonstrated using a 12 colour Macbeth chart. The developed technology will have applications in astronomy, low exposure time imaging in biology and photography."

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Yole on LiDAR Market: Prices Drop but Volume Does Not Grow

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 EETimes publishes Yole Developpement interview on LiDAR Market:

"Historically, LiDAR systems have been too expensive to mass-produce for consumer vehicles. The trend is now reversing: Different LiDAR manufacturers have defined aggressive strategies, and the price drop over the past three years has been massive.

Last year, Luminar announced LiDAR-based solutions for under US$1,000. Velodyne, which came up with the first real-time 3D LiDAR in 2005, unveiled plans to reach an average unit price of US$600 by 2024, down from US$17,900 in 2017. And Chinese LiDAR manufacturers, whose unit prices are usually one-fifth those of other companies, are already fielding units priced below $1,000 and are gaining market share.

But a price drop does not necessarily imply a volume increase. So far, volumes have not grown significantly, and mass adoption has not yet occurred. “LiDAR must answer a need,” said Debray. “In the industrial market, including manufacturing and logistics, there is a clear trend toward automation, and LiDAR is playing a key role. In automotive, US$600 remains expensive for a car sensor in comparison with ADAS cameras, for which the average selling price is US$80. Therefore, we are now hearing about US$100 LiDAR for short-range automotive applications.”

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Smartsens 2.7um Pixel Combines Global Shutter with 40% QE @ 940nm

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Smartsens unveils a 1.3MP pixel global shutter image sensor SC133GS. The new sensor uses 2.7μm pixels in 1/4" optical format and is aimed to the DMS systems to monitor the driver's driving state and attention to driving safety.

SC133GS is said to have the industry's highest QE for a global shutter sensor @ 940nm light exceeding 40%. The sensor also has a single-shot HDR mode. SC133GS is in mass production now.

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PCO Explains its Image Intensified Cameras

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 PCO presents "Intensified Imaging Technology: pco.dicam Series."


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Tip Avalanche Photodiode Claimed to Overcome SPAD Limitations

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Arxiv.org paper "Tip Avalanche Photodiode -- A new generation Silicon Photomultiplier based on non-planar technology" by Eugen Engelmann, Wolfgang Schmailzl, Peter Iskra, Florian Wiest, Elena Popova, and Sergey Vinogradov from KETEK, Germany, and MEPhI, Russia, promises to revolutionize SPAD design:

"The Silicon Photomultiplier (SiPM) is a mature photodetector concept that is applied in a variety of applications ranging from medical imaging to automotive LiDAR systems. Over the last few years, improvements of the sensor performance are gradually approaching to a saturation. In this work we present our new concept to overcome the intrinsic limitations of planar configurations of electrodes. Our non-planar technology is based on focusing and enhancing the electric fields by tip-like electrodes. The shape of the electric field and the lack of typical micro-cell edges, allows us to exclude cell separation boundaries and eliminate dead space around active cell areas. Our design provides a high-density micro-cell layout with a high geometric efficiency. It resolves the well-known trade-off between the detection efficiency and the dynamic range. The first "Tip Avalanche Photodiode" (TAPD) prototypes show a remarkable geometric efficiency above 80% for a micro-cell pitch of 15μm. This directly translates into a photon detection efficiency (PDE) record peak value of 73% at 600nm with respect to the state-of-the-art SiPMs. Moreover, the PDE remains above a value of 45% up to a wavelength of 800nm with another record value of 22% at 905nm. The reduced micro-cell capacity allows for a fast recovery time below 4ns, which improves the operation at high photon rates. Overall, the TAPD is anticipated to be a very promising SiPM generation for various wide-spectral and high-dynamic-range applications in health science, biophysics, particle physics and LiDARs."

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SystemPlus Reverse Engineers Tesla 3 Tri-Camera

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Yole Developpement publishes a webinar "From Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) to Automated Driving" with a part discussion Tesla 3 Tri-camera:


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Unispectral Presents its Tunable MEMS Filter for Multispectral Imaging

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 Unispectral CTO Peleg Levin presents his company's approach to multispectral imaging:


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Canon Announces Several Sensors

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Canon, Canon: Canon announces two 35mm full-frame CMOS sensors based on the NIR sensitivity improved 19um pixel - the LI3030SAM (monochrome) and LI3030SAI (color/near-NIR)—which feature 3x and 2.3x enhanced NIR sensitivity respectively (at 800nm) compared to the predecessor products.

The LI3030SAM is said to be capable of monochrome video capture in low-light environments with as little as 0.0005 lux of illumination.

Apparently, the same sensors have been presented as in-development projects a couple of months ago.

Canon: Another announcement is 250MP 5fps APS-H sensors with 1.5um pixel, the LI8020SAC (color) and LI8020SAM (monochrome). They look fairly similar to a sensor first unveiled 5 years ago and re-announced several times since then.


Canon: Another sensor is 2.12MP LI7050SAC for security cameras "featuring a pixel pitch of 4.1 μm and a resolution of approximately 2.12 million pixels, the sensor provides a High Dynamic Range (HDR) of equivalent to up to 20 stops with frame rates of 30fps and 60fps. What’s more, the sensor features a 54,000 green sensitivity level and can read 1936 × 1096 pixels, which is slightly higher than HD resolution." That one appears to be announced for the fist time.

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Atomic Layer Deposition for Image Sensors

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 Mikko Söderlund of Beneq presents Atomic Layer Deposition for image sensors to achieve:

  • barrier coating 
  • surface passivation
  • anti-reflection coating


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ON Semi Expands 3.2um Global Shutter Sensor Family

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BusinessWire: ON Semiconductor expands its XGS family of image sensors with low noise products that combine 12-bit image at a high frame rate. The new offerings include the XGS 45000, the XGS 30000, and the XGS 20000 with up to 45 MP resolution and up to 60 fps in 8K video mode. Also available is the new XGS 5000 with low power performance for compact 29 x 29 mm2 camera designs. Alongside the XGS 5000, 3 MP and 2 MP variants have been released for production.

All XGS devices feature a 3.2 μm pixel and aim to IoT applications such as machine vision and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).

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Light Field Camera for Smartphone

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MDPI paper "Miniaturized 3D Depth Sensing-Based Smartphone Light Field Camera" by Hyun Myung Kim, Min Seok Kim, Gil Ju Lee, Hyuk Jae Jang, and Young Min Song from Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, Korea, proposes a simplified approach for lightfield imaging:

"The miniaturization of 3D depth camera systems to reduce cost and power consumption is essential for their application in electrical devices that are trending toward smaller sizes (such as smartphones and unmanned aerial systems) and in other applications that cannot be realized via conventional approaches. Currently, equipment exists for a wide range of depth-sensing devices, including stereo vision, structured light, and time-of-flight. This paper reports on a miniaturized 3D depth camera based on a light field camera (LFC) configured with a single aperture and a micro-lens array (MLA). The single aperture and each micro-lens of the MLA serve as multi-camera systems for 3D surface imaging. To overcome the optical alignment challenge in the miniaturized LFC system, the MLA was designed to focus by attaching it to an image sensor. Theoretical analysis of the optical parameters was performed using optical simulation based on Monte Carlo ray tracing to find the valid optical parameters for miniaturized 3D camera systems. Moreover, we demonstrated multi-viewpoint image acquisition via a miniaturized 3D camera module integrated into a smartphone."

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Yole Forum on Machine Vision and Thermal Cameras 2020: Prices Go Down, Resolutions Go Up

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Yole Developpement kindly allowed me to publish few slides from its "Machine Vision & IR for Industry Forum 2020" held in Shenzhen, China, on Sept. 11:

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Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Uses ST AF Sensor instead of Sony iToF

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TechInsights teardown reveals that Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra uses ST AF sensor instead of Sony Sony IMX516 iToF in the previous generation:

"Samsung introduced us to the Sony IMX516 i-ToF in Q4 2019 when it featured the new sensor alongside Galaxy Note10+ 5Gs rear-facing cameras. At the time we were impressed Sony had scaled its back-illuminated 10 µm ToF pixels, in use in the IMX316, down to 5 µm for the new IMX516. The IMX516, with its 640 x 480 resolution and 4.85 mm x 5.11 mm (24.8 mm2) die size, was predicted to have a strong showing in future products. It did indeed land in Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro (2019) and Samsung’s Galaxy S20+ (2020) and we expected it would be reused in Note20."

TheElec reports that "indirect ToF falls behind iPhone 12 Pro’s direct ToF in range. Apple has an exclusive contract with Sony for the direct ToF, forcing Samsung to buy indirect ToF from the Japanese tech giant.

If Apple introduces sufficient contents with its ToF, Samsung will likely reapply the modules for its smartphones as well."

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Camera Array for Multi-Spectral Imaging

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IEEE Transactions on Image Processing publishes a paper "Camera Array for Multi-Spectral Imaging" by Nils Genser, Jürgen Seiler, and André Kaup from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Germany, that might justify even more cameras in smartphones than it's used now.

"Recently, many new applications arose for multi-spectral and hyper-spectral imaging. Besides modern biometric systems for identity verification, also agricultural and medical applications came up, which measure the health condition of plants and humans. Despite the growing demand, the acquisition of multi-spectral data is up to the present complicated. Often, expensive, inflexible, or low resolution acquisition setups are only obtainable for specific professional applications. To overcome these limitations, a novel camera array for multi-spectral imaging is presented in this article for generating consistent multi-spectral videos. As differing spectral images are acquired at various viewpoints, a geometrically constrained multi-camera sensor layout is introduced, which enables the formulation of novel registration and reconstruction algorithms to globally set up robust models. On average, the novel acquisition approach achieves a gain of 2.5 dB PSNR compared to recently published multi-spectral filter array imaging systems. At the same time, the proposed acquisition system ensures not only a superior spatial, but also a high spectral, and temporal resolution, while filters are flexibly exchangeable by the user depending on the application. Moreover, depth information is generated, so that 3D imaging applications, e.g., for augmented or virtual reality, become possible. The proposed camera array for multi-spectral imaging can be set up using off-the-shelf hardware, which allows for a compact design and employment in, e.g., mobile devices or drones, while being cost-effective."

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Forza Webinar on Image Sensor Interfaces

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 Forza publishes its webinar "CMOS Image Sensor Signal Interface & Lessons Learned From System Prototyping" by Nguyen Tran:


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Sony Talks about Intelligent Sensors and their Use Cases

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Sony publishes a video promoting its sensors with integrated AI processor:

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GPixel APS-C Global Shutter Sensor Combines 21MP Resolution with 1,000 fps Speed

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Gpixel announces a high-speed global shutter image sensor, GSPRINT4521, the first in a new family of products targeting high speed applications.

GSPRINT4521 is a 21MP (5120 x 4096) APS-C sized (29.5mm) sensor with 4.5μm charge domain global shutter pixel. It achieves more than 35ke– FWC and less than 3e– rms read noise, resulting in an intra-scene DR of up to 69 dB in single gain operation and up to 81 dB in dual gain HDR mode.

GSPRINT4521 will be offered in different speed variants. The full speed version of the sensor consists of 160 pairs of sub-LVDS channels running at 1.2Gbps each, which delivers a 1000 fps at full resolution in 8-bit mode, 500 fps in 10-bit mode, and 250 fps in 12-bit mode in single gain operation. ROI and on-chip binning modes can be used to further increase the frame rates. Lower frame rates are enabled by multiplexing to a reduced number of output channels (down to 4 channels). A reduced speed version of the sensor, optimized for 50 Gbps camera interfaces, will also be available. GSPRINT4521 is packaged in a 454-pin uPGA ceramic package and will be available in both monochrome and color.

With the launch of the first sensor in the GSPRINT family, Gpixel is able to address a new segment of applications requiring higher frame rates and/or high dynamic range, low noise global shutter operation. We are excited to offer our technology to support these demanding applications and are very much looking forward to the further expansion of this new series,” says Wim Wuyts, CCO of Gpixel.

High frame rate, generous pixel size and low read noise make GSPRINT4521 an ideal solution for applications such as high-speed 4K video, industrial inspection, motion analysis and life science imaging.

GSPRINT4521 monochrome engineering samples can be ordered today for delivery in November 2020.

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Apple Unveils 2 iPhones with LiDAR

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 Apple new iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max feature LiDARs integrated in the rear camera cluster. Among other things, the LiDAR is promised to improve AF speed by 6x in low light:

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Red Komodo Features S35 Global Shutter Sensor

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 Red unveils a new 6K Komodo camera featuring super-35 global shutter sensor:


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Omnivision CTO Presents Automotive-Grade Wafer Stacking Technology & Sensors

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Omnivision publishes an Autosens 2020 presentation "High Performance Automotive Image Sensors using CMOS Wafer Stacking Technology" by Boyd Fowler, the company's CTO:

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Omnivision Announces 1/1.34"-large 64MP Smartphone Sensor with 1um Pixels and 3-Exposure 4-Cell HDR

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BusinessWire: OmniVision announces the 1/1.34-inch OV64A sensor with 64MP resolution with the largest pixel size in its class, at 1.008 micron. It is aimed to the wide and ultrawide main cameras in high end smartphones. Additionally, the OV64A features 3-exposure, 4-cell HDR with on-chip combination and tone mapping, as well as a fast frame rate, which work in tandem to eliminate motion artifacts and produce the best 64MP SNR. This sensor also offers a 2- and 3-exposure staggered HDR timing option.

TSR estimates there will be 322 million image sensors with 50MP or higher resolution shipped to smartphone manufacturers in 2021, which presents a huge opportunity for OmniVision’s growing 64MP portfolio,” said Arun Jayaseelan, staff marketing manager at OmniVision. “Compared with our 0.8 micron 64MP image sensor, the OV64A’s 1.0 micron pixel size provides a more than 60% sensitivity increase, allowing for the greatest possible performance in low light conditions.

Built on OmniVision’s PureCel Plus-S stacked die technology, the OV64A integrates an on-chip, 4-cell (4C) color filter array and hardware remosaic, which provides high quality, 64MP Bayer output, or 8K video, in real time. In low light conditions, this sensor can use near-pixel binning to output a 16MP image for 4K2K video with four times the sensitivity, yielding 2.0um-equivalent low-light performance for preview and video.

Output formats include 64MP at 15 fps, 16MP with 4C binning at 60 fps, and 4K2K video at 120 fps with the extra pixels needed for EIS. This sensor also offers 8K video at 30 fps, 1080p at 240 fps and 720p at 480 fps. Other features include CPHY and DPHY interfaces, and 4C half-shield phase detection for fast autofocus support.

OV64A samples are available now, and mass production is expected in Q4.


So, by now, Omnivision has 3 64MP sensors in its lineup - OV64B with 0.7um pixels, OV64C with 0.8um pixels, and the new OV64A with 1um pixels.

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TI Low Noise Supply for Image Sensors

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 TI presentation "Solving the Key Design Challenges of Automotive Cameras" explains the importance of clean analog supplies for low row noise:

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Assorted News: Omnivision, Samsung, Robosense, Opsys, ON Semi, Trieye

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Digitimes reports that "Demand for high-end CIS components has weakened in the wake of the US trade sanctions against Huawei. But suppliers are ramping up CIS shipments to the midrange segment to meet growing demand from other Chinese handset vendors, such as Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi who are keen on cannibalizing Huawei in their domestic market.

Major CMOS image sensor (CIS) suppliers including Samsung Electronics and OmniVision reportedly have been pushing sales of midrange CIS components to Chinese handset brands due to increasing market demand, according to industry sources."

IFNews quotes Credite Suisse that optical fingreprint sensor companies focus their development efforts in 3 key areas:

  • integration optical fingeprint sensors into LCD displays
  • large area sensing for OLED displays
  • In-cell TFT sensors


Credit Suisse believes that Novatek and Egis/FocalTech are ahead of others (Synaptics and Goodix) on in-cell TFT sensor integration.

M14 Intelligence publishes an interview with Robosense VP LeiLei Shinohara talking about the price pressure on LiDAR market:

"Regarding the pricing part, at least in the near future like 2022 or 2023, the acceptable pricing for the OEM customers could be much less than 1000 USD. However, we have also received requests from most of our customers for LiDARs in the price range of 500 USD or even lower. We have also seen that the customer losses interest if the price of LiDARs is more than 1000 USD. Hence, we expect that for bigger volume deals, the price could reach somewhere below 500 USD."

Autosens publishes an interview with Rafi Harel, Co-Founder of Opsys, a stealth LiDAR startup founded by a group of ex-Finisar employees:


Junko Yoshida interviews ON Semi's VP and GM of Automotive Sensing Ross Jatou:

 

BusinessWire: Cadence announces that TriEye used the Spectre X Simulator to accelerate the design of a next-generation CMOS-based SWIR image sensor by several months. Using the Spectre X Simulator, TriEye observed at least a 2X performance gain over previous simulators while achieving the required accuracy to meet ISO requirements for critical automotive applications.

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