Saturday, October 24, 2020

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

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.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Huawei Mate 40 Features Always-On Front Camera

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:

Smartsens Raises $225M

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).

Paper on CG Improvements

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."

Nanorod-based CMY CFA

 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."

Thursday, October 22, 2020

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

 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.”

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

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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

PCO Explains its Image Intensified Cameras

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


Tip Avalanche Photodiode Claimed to Overcome SPAD Limitations

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."

Tuesday, October 20, 2020