Sunday, May 28, 2017

AR Startup Magic Leap Seeks Round D Funding at $6-8 Billion Valuation

Backchannel, RoadToVR: The secretive AR startup Magic Leap is in the process of raising D round money at the company valuation of $6–8 billion, reportedly. Chinese Alibaba is said to be leading the new funding round.

Just 15 months ago, Magic Leap raised $793.5M, adding to the $592M it had previously raised and earning a valuation at $4.5 billion.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Quad Camera Phones Advance from Low-End to Mid-Range

While smartphones with dual rear and dual front cameras first appeared on the low end of the market, this trend expands to mid-range models now. Mediatek reports that Alcatel Flash smartphone features 4 cameras. The rears are dual 13 MP (RGB+mono), f/2.0 with PDAF, while on the front one is an 8MP + 5MP with also f/2.0 lens and PDAF:


Gionee S10 too features double-dual-camera. GizmoChina and Forbes report that the rear camera has 16MP+8MP sensors and f/1.8 6P lens, while the front camera has 20MP+8MP sensors:

Friday, May 26, 2017

TSMC Proposes SiGe and III-V on Si Image Sensor Processes

TSMC patent application US20170141153 "Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor with silicon and silicon germanium" by Yueh-chuan Lee, Chia-chan Chen, Jhy-jyi Sze proposes a process flow and a device extending the CMOS sensor sensitivity into IR band:

"...solution is to use silicon germanium in place of elemental silicon for the semiconductor layer. Silicon germanium has a lower bandgap than elemental silicon, such that it is better for the absorption of infrared radiation. However, silicon germanium has poor compatibility with CMOS processes for the logic devices due to increased leakage current. As such, manufacturing the logic devices on silicon germanium introduces difficulties and adds cost to the manufacture of the CMOS image sensors.

The present application is directed to a CMOS image sensor with elemental silicon and silicon germanium for long-wavelength pixel sensors. In some embodiments, an elemental silicon layer abuts a silicon germanium layer. A photodetector is at least partially buried in the silicon germanium layer and a transistor is arranged on a surface of the elemental silicon layer with a source/drain region electrically coupled to the photodetector. By arranging the photodetector in the silicon germanium layer, the photodetector advantageously has good sensitivity to and absorption of long-wavelength radiation, such as, for example, infrared radiation. Further, by arranging the transistor on the elemental silicon layer, conventional CMOS processes may advantageously be used when forming the transistor.
"

"...the semiconductor stack 102 comprises a silicon layer 104 and a silicon germanium layer 106. In some embodiments, the silicon germanium layer 106 partially covers an upper surface 108 of the silicon layer 104, and/or is buried in the upper surface 108 of the silicon layer 104. In other embodiments, the silicon germanium layer 106 is partially or fully covered by the silicon layer 104. The silicon and silicon germanium layers 104, 106 may correspond to epitaxial layers and/or regions of a semiconductor substrate, and the silicon layer 104 may be, for example, elemental silicon."


Another TSMC patent application US20170141148 "Infrared image sensor component and manufacturing method thereof" by Chien-ying Wu, Li-hsin Chu, Chung-chuan Tseng, Chia-wei Liu is somewhat similar, but integrates InGaAs sensing layer in a CMOS process flow:

"The infrared sensor component includes a substrate [110], a III-V compound layer [120] disposed on the substrate as an active pixel region, and a plurality of transistors formed on the III-V compound layer. The III-V compound layer is made of III-V groups materials, which have wide infrared wavelength coverage, large absorption coefficient in the infrared region, and high carrier mobility. Therefore, the performance of the infrared image sensor component can be improved accordingly."

Dual-CDS Evaluation

Journal of Semiconductor Technology and Science publishes a paper "Design and Evaluation of a CMOS Image Sensor with Dual-CDS and Column-parallel SS-ADCs" by Bu-Yong Um, Jong-Ryul Kim, Sang-Hoon Kim, Jae-Hoon Lee, Jimin Cheon, Jaehyuk Choi, and Jung-Hoon Chun from Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon, Korea and Kumoh National Institute of Technology, Gumi, Korea. The paper compares Sony-style analog-digital CDS (Exmor) with few other alternatives (seem randomly chosen). No surprises, Sony-style CDS comes on top in terms of column FPN:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dynamic Vision Sensor Presenation

Toby Delbruck, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich presented "Silicon retina technology" at IEEE CAS Workshop at University of Pavia, Italy, on March 20-21, 2017. The human retina only sees motion, the behavior that was mimicked by Dynamic Vision Sensors (DVS):

EETimes on Sony 3-Layer Sensor

EETimes publishes an article "Sony Launches First Three-Layer, 960 fps Camera with Sandwich-Stacked DRAM" by Dick James, Fellow Emeritus, TechInsights, based on Sony ISSCC 2017 paper and ThechInsights reverse engineering report:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

CCM Market in China

China Securities Research publishes a report on Q Technology, the smallest of the top-three CCM suppliers in China, said to be "on the fast track in catching up with the market leaders and has become an early mover in FPM and dual-cameral modules (DCM)." A few interesting figures from the report:

Teledyne DALSA Opens its Line Scan Sensors for Sale

Marketwired: For more than 35 years, Teledyne DALSA has designed and manufactured what it calls the machine vision industry's best-in-class line-scan image sensors. Used in the company's line scan cameras, this class of sensors these sensors were not available as stand alone products. Now, DALSA has decided to offer them for sale, available immediately in resolutions from 2k to 16k.

SSD for Vision Data Storage

Nikkei: Prof. Ken Takeuchi group at Chuo University, Japan, proposes "Value-Aware SSD" that evaluates the value of image data and stores important and not-so-important data in high- and low-reliability flash memory cells, respectively. With that, it became possible to implement high-accuracy face recognition even when the error rate is 10%, which is 12 times higher than in existing SSDs. The data retention time of SSD was improved 300 times. In addition, the read speed was improved by 26% by minimizing the time it takes to correct memory errors.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sony Image Sensor Growth Strategy

Sony has held a Corporate Strategy Meeting as a part of its IR Day discussing the business growth strategy and fiscal targets. Regarding the image sensor business, the company looks for "the image sensor for mobile use business to recover."

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai says:


The IR Day slide deck updates on Sony Semiconductor Segment (SSS) business and plans:

Omnivision Announces HDR Sensors with LED Flicker Mitigation, Surround View ISP

PRNewswire: OmniVision introduces the 1.3MP OX1A10 and 1.7MP OX2A10 for side- and rear-view camera monitoring systems (CMS), respectively. Built on 4.2um BSI split pixel technology for HDR, the new sensors offer LED flicker–reduction.

"In regular HDR cameras, the short exposure time causes the image sensor to miss the LED 'on' pulse, giving the appearance of 'flicker' in the video stream on a display. Merely increasing the exposure time of normal pixel technology to capture the LED pulse does not solve the problem, but rather causes saturation and loss of dynamic range," said Marius Evensen, product marketing manager at OmniVision. "We designed the OX1A10 and OX2A10 image sensors with LED flicker–reduction technology to specifically mitigate this problem and enable mass adoption of e-mirrors in the automotive market. These sensors join our growing portfolio of automotive specific digital imaging solutions targeted at both machine and vision display systems."

The OX1A10 and OX2A10 achieve 110dB HDR while guaranteeing LED pulse capture. The OX1A10 supports 1280 × 1080 resolution in a 1:1.2 aspect ratio for side-view cameras. Targeting rear-view cameras, the OX2A10 supports 1840 × 940 resolution in a 2:1 aspect ratio. The sensors' on-chip combination algorithm reduces the output data rate for easier data transition and back-end processing.

The OX1A10 and OX2A10 are currently in volume production.


PRNewswire: OmniVision announces the OV493, a companion chip with surround-video image-processing capabilities for automotive applications. Each OV493 can process two video streams simultaneously, and two ISP companion chips can process four camera inputs for surround-view applications.

"As advanced automotive driver-assistance features, such as 360-degree surround-view systems, become more popular, automotive manufacturers seek imaging solutions that are suitable for multiple vehicle platforms and can meet stringent industry standards," said Andy Hanvey, senior automotive marketing manager at OmniVision. "The OV493 gives Tier-1 OEMs an opportunity to reduce system cost, maintain high performance, and design distributed architectures for multiple driver-assistance systems."

Monday, May 22, 2017

Omnivision Introduces 2MP Automotive Sensor

PRNewswire: OmniVision introduced the OV2311, an automotive 2MP, 3um global shutter IR-enhanced image sensor for driver monitoring systems.

To combat distracted driving, the automotive industry is ramping up its development of driver monitoring systems and vehicle co-pilot applications, which in combination can allow the on-board computer to seize or relinquish control of the vehicle, based on the driver's state. NHTSA defines this setup as level 3 autonomy. Currently only available for luxury vehicles, these systems are expected to become a standard safety feature in the near future.

"The demand for driver monitoring systems is expected to increase significantly as more affordable technologies allow advanced semi-automated features to transition from high-end to mainstream vehicles," said Jeff Morin, automotive product marketing manager at OmniVision. "Possessing the same capability customarily found in much larger and more expensive sensors, the OV2311 aims to bring advanced driver monitoring systems to the masses by delivering high-level, cost-effective performance in a compact form factor."

Vision-based driver monitoring systems in semi-autonomous vehicles require highly sophisticated eye-tracking technology and imaging capabilities. The OV2311 achieves high NIR QE to minimize active illumination power.

The OV2311 is available for sampling, with volume production expected in Q4 2017.

Softkinetic ToF Gesture Control Powers BMW Series 5 and 7

PRNewswire: Softkinetic announces that BMW extended use of its ToF camera for gesture control in its Series 5 cars, in addition to the last year's Series 7.

"SoftKinetic is proud to expand our technology partnership with BMW Group to include both the BMW 7 and BMW 5 series cars," said Eric Krzeslo, CMO of SoftKinetic. "The infotainment gesture control we see in the BMW cars is just the beginning of the innovation we are bringing to the automotive market. Our technology can improve driver safety through driver assistance and monitoring and 3D vision cameras that ascertain the environment in and out of the vehicle at all times paving the way towards the fully autonomous vehicle."

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Intel Euclid Vision Computer

Intel keeps investing in its vision-based solution and capabilities. The recently announced Euclid Development Kit is a fully stand-alone computer integrating RealSense IR stereo depth camera, a fish eye camera, an RGB camera, an Atom x7-Z8700 Quad core CPU, microphone, GPS, WiFi, and Bluetooth to produce a compact all-in-one computer and depth camera in the size of a candy bar. It comes with a 2000mAh battery so it is completely stand alone.


Thanks to AM for the link!

CrucialTec In-Display Fingerprint Sensor Patent

KoreaHerald Investor reports that CrucialTec has been granted a US patent for its in-display fingerprint solution which the company calls DFS:


The company is talks with some global clients to commercialize the fingerprint tech in the whole area of a smartwatch screen and a certain part of a smartphone display,” a CrucialTec official said. The newly patented technology is said to feature three thin film transistors for each electrode to pick up high-resolution images, compared to one for each electrode in the existing fingerprint scanner. That configuration is said to maximize the sensing capability while maintaining high transparency level of the components.

In spite of mentioning 3T technology, some of the company's recent patent applications keep talking about 1T pixels:


MobileIDWorld, BiometricUpdate: In-display fingerprint sensing solutions are gathering quite a lot of attention recently. Goodix presented its solution at MWC in Barcelona this year. Synaptics and OXi Technology have been reported developing a similar technology some time ago. Apple is rumored to integrate a similar sensor in its future iPhone displays.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Great Minds Think Alike

ST patent application US20170134683 "Global-shutter image sensor" by Fran├žois Guyader and Fran├žois Roy proposes a light screening layer to protect the charge storage note in an BSI GS pixel, fairly similar to TSMC proposal published two weeks ago:


General Electric patent application US20170135179 "Image sensor controlled lighting fixture" by Laszlo Balazs, Tamas Both, and Jean-marc Naud proposes integration of image sensor into a lightbulb: "The controller receives detection signal data from the image sensor and wide-angle lens component when a user is within a detection area associated with a view angle of the wide angle lens, and then determines the position of the user. The controller then controls the illuminance of the light source based on the position of the user." This is quite similar to the Cree proposal published a week ago:

Friday, May 19, 2017

Low-Cost 20,000 fps Film Camera from 1980s

DexterLab2013 publishes a nice educational video explaining the operation of 20,000fps Photec IV 16mm film camera. The camera is said to represent the state-of-the-art in low-cost high speed imaging in 1980s:

ON Semi Industrial Imaging Presentation

ON Semi publishes a video presentation on Python image sensors for industrial applications:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Market Shares, View from China

Beijing, China-based Chlue Research publishes its "Global CMOS Image Sensor Market Report 2016" filled with a lot of interesting data from 2015. Here is a part about the market shares (Piart is meant to be Pixart, probably):


The 2017 version of the report is still behind the paywall.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

SK Hynix Telecom Image Sensor Noise Generator Wins First Customers

IoTNow reports that Aeris becomes one of the first customers of SK Hynix Telecom image sensor-based quantum noise generator:

"SK Telecom’s chip operates on a process called quantum shot noise that generates mathematically proven random numbers.

Quantum shot noise is more than a buzzword; it’s a scientifically tested principle that relies on the ricochet of light waves that produce patterns that always are random and unique. SK Telecom’s security chip generates quantum shot noise with two LEDs inside the chip itself.

The LEDs generate photons that bounce around inside the chip and are detected by a Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor within the chip. The shot noise is the final image detected by the CMOS sensor, and it is this shot noise that truly is random.

The new security chip is estimated to cost a few dollars, making it a very attractive option for robust, future-proof security.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Imec Eliminates Image Sensor from Eye Tracker

Imec and Holst Centre (set up by imec and TNO) announce a technology to detect eye movement in real time based on electrical sensing aimed to virtual and augmented reality applications.

Today’s eye movement detection technology makes use of high-resolution cameras embedded in eye-tracking screens or glasses, already commercialized for numerous applications, including healthcare, research and gaming. While camera-based solutions can accurately determine where users are looking, most cameras’ frame rates are not fast enough to match the eye’s most rapid movements, such as saccades – a typical movement during reading. Using a more sophisticated camera that matches the eyes’ speed is said to significantly increase the cost of these devices and could have implications for their commercial use. Imec’s solution, based on electrical sensing, offers a much more inexpensive alternative, while solving the issue of the image processing delay.

Imec’s sensors were integrated into a set of glasses, with four built-in electrodes around each lens, two to pick up the eye’s vertical movement and two for horizontal movements. Parallel to that, an advanced algorithm was developed to translate the signals into a concrete position, based on the angle the eye is making with its central point of vision. Imec’s solution also offers insights on the eye’s behavior, like the speed of movement or the frequency and duration of blinks.

Human eyes have a natural electrical potential”, stated Gabriel Squillace, researcher in the Biomedical Applications & Systems group at imec. “At imec, we are leveraging this feature to develop the next-generation of eye-movement detection devices that can detect the eye’s position in real time at a five times lower cost and up to four times faster than what is currently available on the market. Imec’s ultimate goal is to develop a solution that can track the eye’s most rapid movements, such as saccades, enabling seamless real time tracking for AR and VR applications.