Friday, November 29, 2013

CMOSIS Increases its 12MP Sensor Speed to 300fps

Azosensors: CMOSIS is demonstrating its 12MP/300fps version of its CMV12000 sensor, which is now available in sample quantities. High volume production will ramp up from June 2014 onwards. When first announced in 2010 the speed was supposed to be 300fps, but the production version had 150fps.

"We are most happy to have finally achieved the outstanding performance of the CMV12000 in terms of its exceptionally high frame rate of 300 fps," said Lou Hermans, COO of CMOSIS. "Our strong technology focus and dedication to this development enables us to continue to offer new or improved CMOS sensor products on a regular basis."

Recently, CMOSIS entered Deloitte Technology Fast50 2013 as Belguim's highest-ranking company with a 4,098 per cent increase in its turnover (not clear over what period). Also, CMOSIS won 1st price for Export in the province of Antwerp of the Trends Business Tour 2013:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chipworks Tears Down New Kinect Camera

Chipworks publishes a teardown report of the new Kinect camera, including ToF sensor and illuminator pictures:

Laser diodes

"There seems to be something else going on though, since we have three laser diodes, and the filters over them are patterned with what looks like a grid; maybe the diodes are toggled in sequence, and a grid is projected, to help in the motion detection part of the system."

ToF camera board
ToF camera disassembled

Cambridge Mechatronics OIS Motor Passed Reliability Tests

Business Weekly: Cambridge Mechatronics announces that its "smart metal" OIS actuators passed reliability tests: "The suite of test specifications stipulated by our module integrator and handset customers include several individual and combination tests in line with industry standards - including drop testing, extended operation cycles and environments at the extremes of high and low temperature.

The completion and availability of this test data is a key milestone in the market readiness of CML's latest product offering, allowing our customers to confidently design our actuator into their own products.

This latest news is in line with CML's plans for our OIS lens motors to be shipping inside smartphone handsets in early 2014.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kingpak Compares CIS Packages

Kingpak's presentation at Semicon Taiwan 2013 compares image sensor packages, with emphasis on Kingpack's own imBGA/imLCC advantages:

Samsung and Sony Divide Fight for Mobile CIS Market

Business Korea published an article on Samsung efforts to capture mobile CIS market. TSR predicts that Samsung will take the lion’s share of the mobile CIS market this year, capturing 24.5% market share by supplying 548.325M CIS units. Sony’s supply volume and market share are estimated at 410.84M units and 18.4%, respectively.

For now Samsung is focusing on mid-end and high-end products of less than 8MP. Although it does produce those that can capture eight or higher megapixels, these account for less than 20% of the total sales volume. Meanwhile, products of 8MP to 13MP represent over 70% of Sony’s total sales.

"Sony’s CISs are at least 1.5 times more expensive than those of Samsung Electronics and OmniVision. Almost all of the high-end smartphones in the market are equipped with CISs manufactured by Sony," said unnamed market expert. Sony’s brand power is said to be greater than Samsung’s when it comes to high-price products of 8MP to 10MP.

NikkoIA Gets Pan-European Grants for Organic IR Imagers

NikkoIA SAS announces the grant of several collaborative development programs in 2013, totaling more than 1.5 million Euros over the next 2 years for “Organic Semiconductors for NIR Optoelectronics” through the several European research programs, including FP7 Framework Programme. This project will support the development of new organic materials sensitive in the NIR spectrum with tunable sensitivity windows. It complements the other granted programs which are more product-oriented and dedicated to the development of organic image sensors based either on a-Si active matrix TFT backplanes or silicon CMOS substrates, and targeting specific applications such as biometrics, medical and security.

The combination of all granted programs wraps up NikkoIA’s comprehensive development strategy and secures its roadmap objectives.

Panasonic Sells Some of its Fabs to TowerJazz

Reuters, Bloomberg, Globes: Panasonic is reported to sell its three Japanese fabs to TowerJazz. It's not immediately clear whether Panasonic sells its image sensor plants. "The companies are negotiating the size of the stake and transfer of the factories' workers, one of the sources said. The three chip plants in Japan, with about 2,500 workers, have been fully depreciated and had a combined book value of 42.2 billion yen ($416 million) as of March 31.

Panasonic said nothing had been decided. Officials at TowerJazz's headquarters could not immediately be reached.
" "The plants are likely worth more than 10 billion yen ($99 million), and a final decision may come as soon as next month."

So far Panasonic has more than 3 fabs in Japan, not clear which ones go to TowerJazz:

Meanwhile, image sensors are presented as one of the core technologies at Panasonic site:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Imagers in Space, Imec's View

EETimes: Piet De Moor, Program Manager for Specialty Imagers at Imec published a view on CMOS vs CCD for space applications: "While CMOS has become the standard in consumer electronics, the space community is still mainly relying on CCD technology. In part, that's because backside illumination processing for CMOS imagers is almost uniquely developed for 300mm wafers [probably Piet meant Imec process offerings here - ISW], whereas high-end space imagers typically use 200mm wafer technologies.

However, the space industry would well be served with a customized high-end backside illuminated CMOS imager processing platform on 200mm wafers. Given the strategic value of Earth observation, it is not surprising that governments on both sides of the Atlantic are currently supporting local initiatives in this area.

MIT Presents Coded ToF Camera

MIT News: Ramesh Raskar, Achuta Kadambi, Refael Whyte, Ayush Bhandari, Christopher Barsi from MIT and Adrian Dorrington and Lee Streeter from the University of Waikato in New Zealand presented a new ToF camera at SIGGRAPH Asia 2013: "Coded Time of Flight Cameras: Sparse Deconvolution to Address Multipath Interference and Recover Time Profiles."

"Using the current state of the art, such as the new Kinect, you cannot capture translucent objects in 3-D," says Achuta Kadambi. "That is because the light that bounces off the transparent object and the background smear into one pixel on the camera. Using our technique you can generate 3-D models of translucent or near-transparent objects." Changing environmental conditions, semitransparent surfaces, edges, or motion all create multiple reflections that mix with the original signal and return to the camera, making it difficult to determine which is the correct measurement.

The new ToF camera uses an encoding technique commonly used in the telecommunications industry to calculate the distance a signal has travelled. "We use a new method that allows us to encode information in time," Ramesh Raskar says. "So when the data comes back, we can do calculations that are very common in the telecommunications world, to estimate different distances from the single signal."

"By solving the multipath problem, essentially just by changing the code, we are able to unmix the light paths and therefore visualize light moving across the scene," Kadambi says.

A Youtube video demo visualizes the light travel, including multi-path resolving on semi-transparent objects:

Key components: PMD 19k3 sensor, FPGA Dev Kit,
Custom PCB for light sources, and DSLR lens from a regular
Canon SLR.

Toshiba Starts Mass Production of 1080p60 1.12um Pixel Sensor

Business Wire: Toshiba will start mass production of T4K71, a 1.12µm, 1/7.3-inch 1080p60 BSI image sensor with color noise reduction (CNR), on December 2, 2013. Initial announcement in April 2013, stated production start in September, so it's almost as scheduled.

Monday, November 25, 2013

OpenVX and Power-Efficient Image Processing

Khronos Group VP Erik Noreke presents "Vision, Camera and Sensor Processing" at SIGGRAPH Asia 2013:

Dongbu Starts Mass Production of 5MP Sensor for Superpix

Business Wire: Dongbu HiTek has begun volume production of 5MP Image Sensor for Superpix Micro Technology of Beijing, China. With patented SuperPix pixel signal processing and SuperImage image processing techniques, Superpix anticipates strong demand for its 5MP CIS devices in China’s mid-range to low-end smart phone market segments.

"We continue to expand our foundry relationship with Superpix, and are now on track to begin developing its 8MP CIS chips early next year so that volume production can also begin next year," said Jae Song, Dongbu HiTek EVP of marketing. He noted that his company’s foundry relationship with Superpix has progressively developed from manufacturing QVGA/VGA chips to the 2MP–to-8MP range.

According to Maybank, the Chinese smart phone market in the mid-range to low-end segment is forecast to grow from some 216M units shipped this year to about 400M units in 2015, thereby exceeding 85% growth over the two year period. In another forecast from iSuppli, smart phones that feature 5MP resolution and above will substantially command this segment’s growth as they replace 2M resolution cameras, shipping 187M units next year and 288M units in 2015, representing a year-over year growth of more than 50%.

Imec Presents Combined CCD-CMOS TDI Imager

Imec presents a prototype of a time-delay-integration (TDI) image sensor based on imec’s proprietary embedded CCD in CMOS technology. Imec developed and fabricated the sensor for the French Space Agency, CNES, which plans to utilize the technology for space-based earth observation. The prototypes were fabricated using imec’s 130nm process with an additional CCD process module. A charge transfer efficiency of 99.9987 % has been measured ensuring almost lossless transport of charges in the TDI array.

Apple Confirms Primesense Acquisition

AllThingsD gets a confirmation from Apple that it has bought Primesense for a price closer to $360M, according to ATD sources:

Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet confirmed the PrimeSense deal with the boilerplate comment the company typically provides when news of one of its acquisitions leaks: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Globes reports that the deal was finally closed on Friday, Nov. 22.

Update: Primesense confirms the acquisition in an email to EETimes-Europe: "We can confirm the deal with Apple. Further than that, we cannot comment at this stage."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rambus Lensless Camera Paper Wins Best Paper Award

Rambus announces that its paper "Lensless Ultra-Miniature CMOS Computational Imagers and Sensors" by David Stork and Patrick Gill won Best Paper Award at Sensorcomm 2013, held in Barcelona, Spain in August 2013. Rambus' "method relies on novel special phase anti-symmetric spiral phase gratings, which overcome prior limitations and afford new functionality. Moreover, our new sensor architecture enables the construction of new classes of ultra-miniature sensors whose output is an estimation of some property of the scene (e.g., visual motion) or a decision (e.g., face detection or barcode reading)."

"These imagers promise to be smaller (lower physical volume) than any existing lens-based imagers of comparable resolution, very inexpensive, and customizable to both imaging and a wide range of sensing and image measurement tasks."

Tektronix on M-PHY Requirements and Testing

Tektronix published a nice webinar on MIPI M-PHY operation and testing. Although not yet appearing in image sensor products, the new standard delivers much higher speeds at lower power consumption and certainly deserves to be the interface of choice in CMOS sensors:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sony Improves 3D NR with Blur Compensation

The newly announced Sony Effio-A/V image processors for SD security cameras improve 3D-NR function to reduce moving subjects blur. The 3D noise reduction processes a few consecutive frames, so moving subjects are excessively blurred, at least, in a normal 3D-NR scheme. It looks like Sony has solved this problem:

Pixel-Shift Resolution Enhancement Simulation

Pixel shift often presented as a way to enhance image sensor resolution. One of the latest cameras has been presented by Vieworks at Stemmer Imaging Technology Forum 2013:

Martin Doppelbauer, Prof. at Karlsruhe University, Germany, presents the pixel shift video simulation that questions the real benefit of this approach:

Thanks to TL for the Stemmer Imaging link!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sony Announces Industrial BSI CMOS Sensor

Sony announces 2.5um BSI-pixel based CMOS sensor for industrial applications, the IMX124LQT. Its sensitivity is said to improved by ~2.7 times over the existing FSI 2.5µm pixel in the older IMX036LQR sensor. It looks like this sensitivity advantage is achieved at quite large aperture, while smaller apertures show almost no BSI benefit:

The new sensor has 3.21MP resolution and can deliver 1080p60 video. The ADC has 12b resolution and its gain can be controlled in 51db range by 0.1db increments.

ABI Research on Gesture Recognition Adoption

ABI Research: "Hands-free operation or gesture recognition is soon going to become a key differentiator in high-end flagship smartphones, media tablets, and smart glasses," says senior analyst Joshua Flood. In 2013, almost 12% of smartphones shipped will have vision-based gesture recognition capabilities.

Global and China CMOS Camera Module Report, 2013

Research-In-China has updated its "Global and China CMOS Camera Module Industry Report" with 2013 data. A few key statements from the report:

  • The growth rate of cell phone camera pixels slows down, or even declines in 2013.
  • OIS is widely used in high-end phones: HTC (one), SONY (Xperia ZU), LG (G2 flagship) and Google (Nexus5)
  • Tablet PC shipment has shown the signs of touching the ceiling, and its future growth will be sluggish.
  • The automotive CCM shipment totaled 24,946,000 sets in 2012 and will grow by 56.4% year on year to 39,008,000 sets in 2013. The shipment is expected to maintain rapid growth, reaching 59,632,000 sets with the increase of 52.9% in 2014. The automotive CCM market is dominated by Panasonic, Sony, Magna, Valeo, MCNEX, Gentex, Fujitsu, Continetal and Autoliv.
  • Without taking DSC into account, CMOS camera modules market is about USD13 billion in 2013, up 28.7% from 2012. Themarket is expected to hit USD15.9 billion in 2014, representing a year-on-year increase of 22.3%, mainly because of the adding of higher pixels and more complex features such as OIS.
  • At the image sensor market, Omnivision, Samsung and Sony compete with each other fiercely. Sony firmly occupies the high-end market, especially the market of 13MP and bigger pixel size; Omnivision's revenue in FY2013 surged by 56.8% from the figure in FY2012 by virtue of low prices, but with profit sacrifice. Aptina transfers to less competitive non-handset markets.
  • Largan almost monopolizes the beyond-8MP lens market. Its gross margin and operating margin jump from 2012 and the revenue is approaching USD1 billion. The revenue of the second-ranked GSEO falls to less than USD350 million in 2013.
  • Taiwanese camera module vendors LITEON, PRIMAX and CHICONY are facing weak growth. However, Chinese and South Korean vendors are developing triumphantly, especially South Korea ones. LG INNOTEK has achieved the world's first laureate again, mainly serving Apple whose at least 70% CCM comes from LG INNOTEK. Taiwanese vendors can only snatch Apple's orders for low-end products. SEMCO's revenue soars thanks to Samsung's handset shipment surge; by profit, SEMCO acts as the world's largest CCM vendor.
  • Among Chinese mainland vendors, SUNNY witnesses the strongest growth, and its shipment in 2013 is expected to reach 136 million units, doubling that in 2012. Besides, South Korean vendors also push aggressively into Chinese market, for instance, MCNEX is ZTE's largest supplier and Cowell acts as Lenovo's supplier.

Revenue of the Leading Camera Module Vendors
(Unit: US$M)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dongbu Foundry is Up for Sale

EETimes-Europe, Korea JongAng Daily, Korea Economic Daily, Korea Herald: Dongbu financial group, the owner of Dongbu HiTek foundry is planning to sell the foundry to solve the mother company financial problems. Dongbu HiTek is one of the better known foundries making image sensors. SETi, Siliconfile, Pixelplus and other image sensor companies are among its customers. Dongbu has invested several trillion won in Dongbu HiTek in the non-memory semiconductor sector, but the foundry incurred losses for 14 straight years since its creation in 1997. Its first quarterly profit was in 2011.

"After putting in enormous investment and efforts over the past 10 years or so, the business of Dongbu HiTek has just been getting into the right orbit, but in order to dispel concern in the financial community over our future investment in the semiconductor sector, we made an inevitable decision to sell it," Dongbu group said.

Dongbu image sensor processes

Teledyne DALSA Introduces Switchable Gain X-Ray Imager

PR Newswire: Xineos-1515 X-Ray imager features Teledyne DALSA's next generation CMOS pixel with 99um resolution and a switchable saturation dose where X-Ray technicians can choose between high sensitivity and extended DR depending on the requirements of the procedure. This high-speed, low-power detector is capable of real-time (30 fps) imaging without the need for forced air or liquid coolers, which makes it an ideal choice for fixed as well as mobile interventional C-Arms, Fluoroscopy and 3D Orthopedic imaging systems.

"Our new Xineos detector signals Teledyne DALSA's continued commitment to designing the industry's highest performing CMOS X-Ray detectors," said Yves Kessener, Senior Product Manager at Teledyne DALSA. "Our versatile panels deliver the low-dose image quality standard of image-intensified CCD cameras with the form factor and workflow advantages of digital flat detectors."

Samsung on Image Sensor Progress

NS (Stephen) Woo, President & GM of Samsung System LSI Division presentation at Analyst Day on Nov. 6, 2013 has few slides on image sensor progress:

Caeleste and PCO Announce Cooperation Caeleste and PCO announce their collaboration to explore novel concepts and ideas in the field of CMOS image sensors. This collaboration is aimed at innovative and advanced product developments and will keep PCO a leader in state-of-the art scientific and industrial cameras.

Patrick Henckes, CEO of Caeleste says: "We are very happy to be able to team up with of one of the most advanced scientific camera manufacturers in the world. Our beyond-state-of-the-art focus fits perfectly their continuous innovation efforts." Emil Ott, CEO of PCO: "We are excited to start together with the experts of Caeleste to explore new frontiers in image sensors. We are looking forward [to] what the combination of Caeleste's know-how and creativity paired with our technical skills in camera design might achieve."

Image Sensors at ISSCC 2014

ISSCC 2014 Advance Program has been published and revealed a number of image sensor papers. First, there is F2 forum "3D Stacking Technologies for Image Sensors and Memories" featuring presentations from Sony, TSMC, STMicro and Tohoku University:

3D System Module with Stacked Image Sensors, Stacked Memories and Stacked Processors on a Si Interposer
Mitsumasa Koyanagi , Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan

Challenges and Opportunities of 3D Chips Stacking - A Foundry’s Perspective
Douglas Yu, TSMC, Hsinchu, Taiwan

3D Stacked CMOS Image Sensor Exmor RSTM
Taku Umebayashi, Sony, Kanagawa, Japan

Evolution of 3D Integration for CMOS Image Sensor Cameras
Lindsay Grant, STMicroelectronics, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The Image Sensors session has 6 papers, 3 of them are devoted to ToF devices. The most interesting one presents Microsoft's new Kinect solution:

A 512×424 CMOS 3D Time-of-Flight Image Sensor with Multi-Frequency Photo-Demodulation up to 130MHz and 2GS/s ADC
A. Payne, A. Daniel, A. Mehta, B. Thompson, C. S. Bamji, D. Snow, H. Oshima, L. Prather, M. Fenton, L. Kordus, P. O’Connor, R. McCauley, S. Nayak, S. Acharya, S. Mehta, T. Elkhatib, T. Meyer, T. O’Dwyer, T. Perry, V-H. Chan, V. Wong, W. Qian, Z. Xu
Microsoft, Mountain View, CA

Other papers are:

1/4-inch 8Mpixel CMOS Image Sensor with 3D Backside-Illuminated 1.12μm Pixel with Front-Side Deep-Trench Isolation and Vertical Transfer Gate
J. Ahn, K. Lee, Y. Kim, H. Jeong, B. Kim, H. Kim, J. Park, T. Jung, W. Park, T. Lee, E. Park, S. Choi, G. Choi, H. Park, Y. Choi, S. Lee, Y. Kim, Y. J. Jung, D. Park, S. Nah, Y. Oh, M. Kim, Y. Lee, Y. Chung, I. Hisanori,J. Im, D-K. Lee, B. Yim, G. Lee, H. Kown, S. Choi, J. Lee, D. Jang, Y. Kim, T. C. Kim, G. Hiroshige, C-Y. Choi, D. Lee, G. Han
Samsung Electronics, Yongin, Korea

243.3pJ/pixel Bio-Inspired Time-Stamp-Based 2D Optic Flow Sensor for Artificial Compound Eyes
S. Park, J. Cho, K. Lee, E. Yoon
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

A 1000fps Vision Chip Based on a Dynamically Reconfigurable Hybrid Architecture Comprising a PE Array and Self-Organizing Map Neural Network
C. Shi, J. Yang, Y. Han, Z. Cao, Q. Qin, L. Liu, N-J. Wu, Z. Wang
Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

A 413×240-Pixel Sub-Centimeter Resolution Time-of-Flight CMOS Image Sensor with In-Pixel Background Canceling Using Lateral-Electric-Field Charge Modulators
S-M. Han, T. Takasawa, T. Akahori, K. Yasutomi, K. Kagawa, S. Kawahito
Shizuoka University, Hamamatsu, Japan
Brookman Technology, Hamamatsu, Japan

A 0.3mm-Resolution Time-of-Flight CMOS Range Imager with Column-Gating Clock-Skew Calibration
K. Yasutomi, T. Usui, S-M. Han, T. Takasawa, K. Kagawa, S. Kawahito
Shizuoka University, Hamamatsu, Japan

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

ESPROS and SiOnyx in EDN Hot 100 Products of 2013

The only image sensors in EDN list of Hot 100 Products of 2013 are ESPROS Photonic's epc600/610 ToF camera and SiOnyx XQE image sensors.

Espros' ToF camera chips were awarded for a small 2.6x2.6mm footprint and that only a few passive components and a couple of LEDs are required to build a distance sensor with them.

SiOnyx XQE sensors were selected for their "true nightglow detection capabilities in extreme, low-light conditions."

Truesense Announces 6MP/160fps CMOS Sensor

Truesense presents its second CMOS sensor: 6MP, 160fps, 1-inch KAC-06040. It's said to be "plug and play" compatible with the same external package electro-optical-mechanical dimensions as the earlier announced 12MP KAC-12040 and uses the same 4.7um 5T pixel with GS. As we already got used with Kodak, all the key parameters are presented at the launch time, nice practice:

The sensor targets Machine Vision, Intelligent Transportation Systems, Surveillance, and other applications. The KAC-06040 is available in monochrome and Bayer color configurations, and is sampling now with production planned for Q1, 2014.

Sony PS4 Uses Softkinetic's Middleware for Gesture Recognition

Venturebeat: SoftKinetic announces that its iisu body tracking middleware is used in Just Dance 2014 for PlayStation 4, the popular dance game franchise from Ubisoft. "We are excited to work with Sony Computer Entertainment to bring our award-winning 3D gesture recognition middleware to game titles for the PS4," said Michel Tombroff, CEO of SoftKinetic. "We recognize that the game developer community is one of the most technically-advanced ecosystems, and we have therefore been very dedicated to providing the most sophisticated technology for the PS4. We are confident that the 3D gesture recognition capabilities will not only meet, but exceed, that of any other gaming console on the market today."

Softkinetic's mmiddleware uses the PlayStation Camera for the PS4. "While SoftKinetic focuses on TOF hardware technology, we keep our software 3D hardware agnostic. We have previously provided iisu on both TOF and structured light cameras, and this is our first consumer announcement with a passive stereoscopic camera," says Mitch Reifel, Softkinetic's VP of Sales

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chroma Automation Image Sensor Inspection System

Chroma Automation published a Youtube video on its 7970 CMOS sensor inspection system:

Imagination Announces Raptor ISP IP

Imagination launches its PowerVR Series2 ‘Raptor’ architecture for an image signal processor. The initial architectural family announcement will be followed up in due course with core IP family members aimed at specific markets. The ‘Raptor’ interfaces directly to a CMOS sensor – no need for a stacked ISP on the sensor chip itself – and it includes all of the functions needed to prepare images or streaming videos for insertion into a real-time encoder or display to the viewfinder. Included in the pipeline hardware are a set of powerful, configurable image processing blocks to handle the “three A’s” (Auto focus, Auto Exposure, Auto White Balance) in hardware but controlled by the CPU for maximum flexibility.

‘Raptor' includes tunable blocks to correct for various lens aberrations, for variations in illumination across the sensor surface, to remove noise introduced by very high density sensors in low light and to remove bad pixels. Then the raw image turned into an RGB image and tuned for the characteristics of the sensor before being sent off for display and/or encode. All of these operations are said to be done in the most configurable way possible in order to interface to the widest selection of CMOS sensors.

The job of the ISP is evolving rapidly away from being a simple image or video capture device; forward looking features of the ‘Raptor’ architecture include the ability to interact with other powerful vision and video processors in the multimedia subsystem. One example of this is a dedicated interface to a PowerVR video encoder in order to implement low latency video encode for live video conferencing; another is the production of image statistics, or hints, which can be used for a range of imaging and vision enhancements.

Computational photography using the GPU for heavy duty processing is already within the range of the abilities of ‘Raptor’, and forward looking applications include vision applications using multi-camera arrays (‘Raptor’ can simultaneously support multiple sensors with widely different characteristics) as well as higher pixel depth applications for industrial and automotive use. In its most cost-efficient form, ‘Raptor’ supports 10-bit pixel depths which matches the 10-bit encode and decode capability already offered by PowerVR video processors. It can be configured to support much higher bit depths (up to 16) when needed.

PowerVR Vision Platform

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Apple Reportedly Acquires Primesense for $345M

Reuters, VentureBeat, Times of Israel, The Verge, SlashGrear, Forbes and many others quote Hebrew-language publication in Calcalist saying that Apple has acquired Primesense for $345M. So far Primesense has raised $85M of venture capital and has about 150 employees.

Update: Primesense spokesperson refused to comment on rumors. Calcalist speculates that the potential application for Primesense technology is Apple TV.

Update #2: AllThingsD adds its owns sources to the story:
"talks are “close” to complete, but are hung up on end-game issues like liquidity preferences," "the price could be slightly higher than reported, on the order of $20 million more," "the best that could happen, given the circumstances: A big strategic buyer at a decent price."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

TowerJazz Reports Imminent Launch of High-Volume Gesture Control Sensor

SeekingAlpha publishes TowerJazz Q3 2013 earnings call transcript updating on its CIS business:

"In our CMOS Image Sensor business unit, we continued to see growth from our leading European customers for high-resolution, high frame rate, global shutter products. This is a highly competitive field, however, most of the competition is not between us and other foundry providers, but rather between our customers. There are many growth, as well as new applications for industrial cameras, such as traffic control, 3D copiers and border control that contribute to our overall market growth. The continuous move from CCD to CMOS in the industrial sensor market also contributes to the growth of this area of our business.

In the x-ray market, we reported in the past on prototypes of several new sensors for medical and dental applications. Those products are currently ramping nicely to production and are expected to contribute significantly to the CIS business unit's revenue next year and beyond. Several new projects are in the pipeline and considering the very long life of x-ray sensor products in general, we expect the products to be responsible for substantial incremental revenues over the next 5 to 8 years.

Our forecasted high-volume gesture control project is now in its qualification stage and moving according to plan. The gesture activities are with name-brand top-tier customers. This is expected to ramp to mass production next year. We're also making significant steps in the high-end scientific and space sensor area. In the beginning of October, we presented our technology to the CERN Institute in Switzerland and were personally congratulated by the CERN General Director for winning a $5 million contract to supply sensors to the new CERN experimental facility, known as ALICE. We expect to penetrate more into the research in space area in Europe during 2014.

In addition, just last week, we announced that together with SRI International, we delivered the first radiation-hardened CMOS image sensor units to the Naval Research Laboratory for use on the Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager, known as SoloHI optical telescope. SoloHI is part of the NASA and European Space Energy, Solar Orbiter Mission. Planned for launch in 2017, the spacecraft is expected to study the sun from a closer distance than any other previous mission, and we are proud to be critically involved in this mission. Although itself not a high-revenue project, it does recognize our technology leadership and brand in a scientific grade rad-hard image sensors.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Toshiba Demos HDR Sensor in Automotive Applications

Toshiba posted Youtube video of its HDR sensor for automotive applications, presumably the recently announced TCM5126GBA:

Update: Now an English version of this video is available:

Last Seats at "ADCs for Imagers" Forum

Albert Theuwissen says there are just few last seats remain at the two December sessions of Imaging Forum "ADC for Image Sensors". Those who want to register, please hurry up! The invited lecturer is Marcel Pelgrom, known to every analog designer in the world by his classical works on device mismatch.

NHK Develops 3-Layer Organic Sensor

NHK presents 3-layer organic sensor where each layer absorbs a single color:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Aptina Applies for Patents on Stacked Sensors

This week USPTO published a no less than 8 Aptina's patent applications, two of them on stacked image sensors. US20130293753 application titled "Image Data Compression in Stacked Image Sensors" by Brian Keelan and Dhandapani Dharumalingam proposes a partitioning of the pixel array into many sub-arrays, each having independent row addressing and readout:

The frame rate of each of the sub-arrays might be different, depending on the scene. The image compressing processor chooses a different compression block size and other compression parameters for each sub-array:

US20130293752 application titled "Exposure Time Selection Using Stacked-Chip Image Sensors" by Honghong Peng and Brian Keelan proposes to use different exposure times for different sub-arrays, based on motion information determined by stacked processing circuitry:

Former Image Sensor Tester Designer Becomes Teradyne CEO

RTT News, NASDAQ: Teradyne announces the promotion of its President Mark Jagiela to CEO position. Jagiela joined Teradyne in 1982 as a design engineer developing image sensor test systems and held a number of management positions since then.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nokia Emulates Pelican and Lytro Refocusing Function

Nokia Conversations blog tells about a new downloadable application available for Lumia 920-series and 1020 camera phones - Refocus. The application essentially emulates the post-capture refocus capability available in Lytro and Pelican Imaging cameras:

"Once you have the closest object in focus, tapping the screen on your Lumia will start the capture process – which only takes a couple of seconds (try to be very still). During this time, Nokia Refocus performs a ‘focus sweep’ and creates a depth map.

This new way of taking photos is a great example of computational photography. We’ve now got the ability to change a photo once it’s taken and have a photo that simply couldn’t have been taken by a traditional camera.

The result is a series of 2-8 images, depending on what’s in view, each at five megapixels at a different focus that’ll be aligned and forged together to make one image.

By tapping on any part of this final image you’ll be able to shift the focus to that particular part. The great thing here is that you can achieve a variety of different shots from just the one photo.

Refocus app can also put the whole scene into focus at the same time to provide extra clarity:

Engadget says that Refocus is based on Scalado technology that Nokia acquired a year ago.