Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G Features 6 Cameras

Samsung announces S10 generation of its flagship Galaxy phones, including the top of the range 5G model with ToF rear camera. CNET put together a nice table summarizing the camera differences in the S10 family:

"The Galaxy S10 5G truly packs the power of a professional-grade camera into your phone by offering a total of six lenses – two on the front and four on the back. In addition to featuring all of the lenses included in the Galaxy S10+, the 5G model introduces Samsung’s next-generation 3D Depth Camera.

This innovative camera allows the device to accurately capture depth by measuring the length of time it takes for an infrared light signal to bounce off the photograph’s subject. The camera uses the resulting depth information to improve the quality of portrait-style images, and to power exciting new features like Video Live focus and Quick Measure. The former allows you to apply cinema-quality bokeh effects to recorded videos, while the latter enables you to use your phone to instantly measure distance, area or volume.

Albert Theuwissen Reviews ISSCC 2019 - Part 2

The second part of Albert Theuwissen's review of image sensor session at ISSCC 2019 talks about “A Data Compressive 1.5b/2.75b Log-Gradient QVGA Image Sensor with Multi-Scale Readout for Always-On Object Detection” by Christopher Young, Alex Omid-Zohoor, Pedram Lajevardi, and Boris Murmann from Stanford University and Robert Bosch:

“A 76mW 500fps VGA CMOS Image Sensor with Time-Stretched Single-Slope ADCs Achieving 1.95 e– Random Noise” by Injun Park, Chanmin Park, Jimin Cheon, and Youngcheol Chae form Yonsei University and Kumoh National Institute of Technology, Korea:

Omnivision Announces 32MP 0.8um Pixel Sensor for Smartphones

PRNewswire: OmniVision announces the OV32A, its first 0.8um pixel sensor with 32MP resolution. The new sensor is built on PureCel Plus stacked die technology and aimed to high-end smartphones. The sensor also uses a 4-cell CFA, and features on-chip re-mosaic, which can provide full-resolution, 32MP Bayer output in normal lighting conditions. In low-light conditions, the OV32A can use near-pixel binning to output an 8MP image with 4 times the sensitivity.

The demand for high-performance smartphone cameras is very strong, with consumers clamoring for ever-higher resolution in high-end mobile phones—including selfie cameras,” said Arun Jayaseelan, senior marketing manager at OmniVision. “At the same time, circuitry space within smartphones is at a premium. With the OV32A’s submicron 0.8ยต pixel size, it can provide leading-edge 32MP resolution with a 1/2.8 inch optical format. This compact form factor, combined with many advanced features such as on-chip re-mosaic and near-pixel binning, make the OV32A ideal for high-end smartphones.

The OV32A speed is 15fps at full 32MP resolution or 8MP with 4-cell binning at 60 fps, 4K2K video at 60 fps, 1080p video at 120 fps and 720p video at 240 fps. Pad locations on the top and bottom of the image sensor reduce module size in the x-direction, which is ideal for front-facing cameras in thin-bezel, infinity-display smartphones.

OV32A samples are expected to be available in March 2019.

Trioptics Demos its Camera Module Tester

Trioptics video shows how its camera module tester for flexible low to mid volume production works:

TowerJazz Reports Q4 Results

SeekingAlpha: TowerJazz quarterly earning report gives some info on its image sensor business:

"Moving on to the sensors business, which includes both visual CMOS image sensors and non-visual sensors. In 2018, these revenues represented 18% of corporate revenue or approximately $230 million compared with 15% in 2017 or approximately $210 million, with majority of revenues related to industrial, medical, security and high end professional markets.

In 2019, we will begin to harvest from the previous year’s efforts as many of these are customers excellent products ramp into mass production. We provide the most advanced global shutter pixel platform, posting a 2.5 micron pixel size, built on a 65 nanometer platform.

These sensors are geared toward both industrial and commercial markets, covering applications such as machine vision, facial recognition, 3D mapping and augmented and virtual reality. We expect our global shutter platform to drive increased sales volume in 2019 and beyond and with the strong related market growth we see this as a key revenue driver from our industrial sensor customers.

In the medical X-ray market, we are continually gaining momentum working with several market leaders on large panel dental and medical CMOS detectors. These are based on our one-die per wafer sensor technology using our well established higher margins stitching with best in class high dynamic range pixels providing our customers with extreme value creation and high yield both in 200 millimeter and 300 millimeter way for technology.

We presently have strong business with market leadership in this segment and expect substantial growth in 2019 on 200 millimeter and with 300 millimeter single die per wafer initial qualifications that will drive incremental growth over the next multiple years.

In terms of upcoming growth drivers, there is now a major trend in the market, terms time of flight and structured light 3D sensing technologies. Markets driven by these technologies are generally mobile mainly facial recognition, but also front looking 3D mapping, commercial and augmented reality and virtual reality.

We're well-positioned with our unique global shutter pixel technology to address the structured light market and have developed single photon avalanche diode for direct time of flight. In particular we are progressing well on two very exciting opportunities in the augmented and virtual reality markets one for 3D time of flight based sensors and one for silicon based screens for VR head mount displays.

In the neural network field, we have made some substantial progress in partnership with AI Storm, demonstrating the unique building block for full onboard analog AI that can be embedded into our sensors to make smarter sensors.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Albert Theuwissen Reviews ISSCC Presentations - Part 1

Albert Theuwissen reviews two papers from ISSCC 2019 Image Sensor session held yesterday:

1. Smartsens "A Stacked Global-Shutter CMOS Imager with SC-Type Hybrid-GS Pixel and Self-Knee Point Calibration Single-Frame HDR and On-Chip Binarization Algorithm for Smart Vision Applications" by C. Xu, Y. Mo, G. Ren, W. Ma, X. Wang, W. Shi, J. Hou, K. Shao, H. Wang, P. Xiao, Z. Shao, X. Xie, X. Wang, and C. Yiu:

2. University of Michigan “Energy-efficient low-noise CMOS image sensor with capacitor array-assisted charge-injection SAR ADC for motion-triggered low-power IoT applications” by Kyojin D. Choo, Li Xu, Yejoong Kim, Ji-Hwan Seol, Xiao Wu, Dennis Sylvester, and David Blaauw:

ST ALS Senses Light Flicker

GlobeNewswire: STM releases a multispectral ambient light sensor (ALS) that simultaneously provides scene color temperature, ultra-violet (UVA) radiation level, and lighting frequency information. The new VD6281 helps the camera to set appropriate exposure times to avoid flicker artefacts and eliminate banding in pictures and videos, especially in scenes lit with contemporary LED sources.

"Leveraging the Company's extensive camera system know-how, ST's new VD6281 offers customers a state-of-the-art multispectral ambient light sensor," said Eric Aussedat, GM of ST's Imaging Division. "Our roadmap for ALS and flicker sensors is an ideal complement to ST's market-leading FlightSense Time-of-Flight (ToF) product portfolio. With a growing number of high-quality, high-resolution cameras per phone, our goal is to offer an advanced solution to assist white-balance correction and remove flicker artefacts in smartphone camera images. Mobiles equipped with VD6281 were already released in 2018, and many others will be coming soon."

With its form factor of 1.83 x 1.0 x 0.55mm, the VD6281 is said to be the smallest multispectral ambient light sensor available, allowing integration in bezel-free smartphones with small notches and inside smartwatches, where a high screen ratio is at a premium. The sensor uses direct-deposition interferometric filters to create 6 independent color channels: Red, Green, Blue, NIR, UVA and Clear for color-sensing capability and CCT (Color-Correlated Temperature) over a wide field-of-view of 120 degrees. The VD6281 is in production and available now.

Himax Quarterly Update

Himax updates on its imaging business:

"On CMOS image sensor business updates, we continue to make great progress with our machine-vision sensor product lines. Combining Himax’s industry leading super low power CIS and ASIC designs with Emza’s unique AI-based, ultra-low power computer vision algorithm, we are uniquely positioned to provide ultra-low power, smart imaging sensing total solutions. We are pleased with the status of engagement with leading players in areas such as connected home, smart building and security, all of which new frontiers for Himax.

For traditional human vision segments, we see strong demands in laptop and increasing shipment for multimedia applications such as car recorders, surveillance, drones, home appliances, and consumer electronics, among others.

3D Sensing Business

We have participated in most of the smartphone OEMs’ ongoing 3D sensing projects covering all three types of technologies, namely structured light, active stereo camera (ASC) and time-of-flight. Depending on the customers’ needs, we provide 3D sensing total solution or just the projector module or optics inside the module. We have highlighted in the last earnings call that the 3D sensing adoption for Android smartphone market remains low. The adoption is hindered primarily by the prevailing high hardware cost of 3D sensing and the long development lead time required to integrate it into the smartphone. Instead of 3D sensing, most of the Android phone makers have chosen the lower cost fingerprint technology which can achieve similar phone unlock and online payment functions with somewhat compromised user experience.

Reacting to their lukewarm response, we are working on the next generation 3D sensing with our platform partners aiming to leapfrog the market by providing high performance, easy to adopt and yet cost friendly total solutions, targeting the majority of Android smartphone players. We have a solid product roadmap and plan including new architecture, new algorithm to make it happen. The development progress is on track and the new solution is aiming for smartphone customers’ 2020 models.

We believe that 3D sensing will be widely used by more Android smartphone makers when more killer applications become available and the ecosystem is able to substantially lower the cost of adoption while offering easy-to use, fully-integrated total solutions, for which Himax is playing a key part.

I have mentioned previously that 3D sensing can have a wide range of applications beyond smartphone. We have started to explore business opportunities in various industries by leveraging our SLiMTM 3D sensing total solution. Such industries are typically less sensitive to cost and always require a total solution. We are collaborating with Kneron, an industry leader in edge-based artificial intelligence in which we have made an equity investment, to develop an AI-enabled 3D sensing solution targeting security and surveillance markets. We are also working with partners/customers on new applications covering home appliances and industrial manufacturing.

Monday, February 18, 2019

AIStorm Patent Application

AIStorm sent me a nice summary of its recent press announcements:

AIStorm addresses the enormous opportunity of enabling more 'intelligence' right at the edge of the network.

1. Company and team
  • This low-profile AI tech startup is poised to tackle a big problem: enabling faster processing of complex AI problems at the very edge of the network — within sensors.
  • AIStorm has developed and patented a new approach that will disrupt the GPU-based approach that is typically used today.
  • Founded/led by David Schie, an expert in analog and mixed-signal hardware design who has led large teams at Maxim, Micrel, and Semtech.
  • The team also includes proven veterans that round out the company's design and fabrication expertise.

2. Market & technology
  • AIStorm has solved a growing problem: the need to process sensor information at the edge of the network to reduce the cost and security risk of transmitting large amounts of raw data.
  • AI systems require information be available in digital form before they can process data, but sensor data is generally analog. AIStorm solves this problem by processing sensor data directly in its native analog form, in real time.
  • AIStorm is targeting some of the world’s largest handset, machine vision, wearable, IoT, automotive, food service, AI assistant, security, biometric device, & imager applications.
  • Gryfalcon, Mythic-AI, Syntiant and Google have all announced they are pursuing AI engine platforms at the edge. But... none of their approaches incorporate sensors into the solution. AIStorm changes that.

3. Investors
AIStorm is backed by four large sensor and industrial companies that are eager to integrate AIStorm's technology into upcoming products…
  • Egis Technology, a major biometrics supplier to handsets, gaming, and advanced driver-assistance systems.
  • TowerJazz, the global specialty foundry leader that specializes in image sensors for commercial, industrial, AR, and medical markets.
  • Meyer Corporation, a world leader in food preparation equipment.
  • Linear Dimensions Semiconductor, a leader in biometric authentication and digital health products.

David Schie's US patent application 20140344200 "Low power integrated analog mathematical engine" shows a convolution engine based on partial charging of caps by the controlled current sources, said to eliminate the need in capacitor scaling to change coefficients:

"The switched capacitor charge controls allow for nodal control of charge transfer based switched capacitor circuits. The method reduces reliance on passive component programmable arrays to produce programmable switched capacitor circuit coefficients. The switched capacitor circuits are dynamically scaled without having to rely on unit passives, such as unit capacitors, and the complexities of switching these capacitors into and out of circuit. The current, and thus the charge transferred is controlled at a nodal level, and the current rather than the capacitors are scaled providing a more accurate result in addition to saving silicon area. Furthermore, the weightings and biases now set as currents may be saved and recalled by coupling current source bias circuits to non-volatile memory means such as analog non-volatile memory."

Saturday, February 16, 2019

WKA - Last Call for Nominations

International Image Sensor Society Call for Nominations for the Walter Kosonocky Award nearing its deadline on February 18, 2019:

"The Walter Kosonocky Award is presented biennially for THE BEST PAPER presented in any venue during the prior two years representing significant advancement in solid-state image sensors. The award commemorates the many important contributions made by the late Dr. Walter Kosonocky to the field of solid-state image sensors. Personal tributes to Dr. Kosonocky appeared in the IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices in 1997.

Founded in 1997 by his colleagues in industry, government and academia, the award is also funded by proceeds from the International Image Sensor Workshop. (See International Image Sensor Society’s website for detail and past recipients)

The award is selected from nominated papers by the Walter Kosonocky Award Committee, announced and presented at the International Image Sensor Workshop (IISW), and sponsored by the International Image Sensor Society (IISS).

Your nominations should be sent to Rihito Kuroda (, Chair of the IISS Award Committee.