Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ESPROS ToF Camera Demo

Polytec, ESPROS Photonics' distributor of ToF cameras, has published a Youtube video showing the epc6xx 8x8 pixel camera in action:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Teledyne DALSA Presents Fast X-Ray Imagers

Marketwired: Teledyne DALSA introduces the first in its new Rad-icon series of CMOS X-Ray cameras. The Rad-icon 1520 detector features 1548 x 2064 pixel resolution, an active area of 15.3 x 20.4 cm, and 99um pixel size and delivers real-time frame rates of up to 30 fps. "The Rad-icon digital x-ray cameras deliver a unique combination of speed, resolution and connectivity," commented Thorsten Achterkirchen, VP X-Ray Imaging for Teledyne DALSA. "The 1520 is only the beginning of what we are promoting as a cost-effective and flexible platform for high performance digital x-ray imaging for non-destructive testing."

Dual Aperture Announces its Camera Module Manufacturer

PR Newswire: Dual Aperture keeps announcing its partners. Recently, it has announced its image sensor partner (Hynix/SiliconFile) and DSP partner (eWBM). Now the company says that it cooperates with Ability Enterprise on camera design. Ability Enterprise and Dual Aperture partner together on a technology licensing agreement whereby Ability Enterprise will incorporate Dual Aperture's 4-color sensor technology, image processing algorithms and various application software, into their latest line of camera module products.

Dual Aperture's technology utilizes a proprietary 4-color sensor design comprised of RGB and IR pixels. Built with separate apertures for the RGB and IR pixels, the sensor is able to generate two distinct images, one in the RGB spectrum and the other in the IR, with a single capture. This allows to estimate a depth of the image, as explained in a Youtube video:

Monday, April 28, 2014

Canesta Veterans Unveil a New Gesture Recognition Company

EETimes, Venture Beat: Aquifi, founded by a few ex-Canesta engineers, announce Fluid Experience - software only gesture recognition based on a regular HD-resolution webcam, machine learning algorithms and cloud services. The cloud part accumulates the different users experience with the gesture tracking and processes it to improve the accuracy over time.

"If Kinect was the first generation, we’re building the second generation," said Nazim Kareemi, Aquifi CEO. "In the past, you had to adapt to the machine. We want it to adapt to you." The Palo Alto, Calif.-based Aquifi has raised $9M from Benchmark Capital, and private investors including Mike Farmwald, cofounder of Rambus. Aquifi was founded in 2011, and it has 29 employees. A Youtube video presents the company and its technology:

Saturday, April 26, 2014

EETimes on Image Sensor Applications

EETimes publishes a popular article "Sensors Beyond Megapixels" by Junko Yoshida on image sensor applications beyond the mainstream consumer ones. No revelations there, the article just briefly talks about automotive, food sorting, dental, and few other applications.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Panasonic to Discontinue ToF D-Imager

Panasonic announces that its ToF Image Sensor D-IMager will be discontinued at the end of December 2014. Thanks to MR for the link!

More on Sony Curved Sensor Paper

VLSI Symposia tipsheet publishes a re-phrased version of Sony curved image sensor paper abstract accompanied by a figure:

"Curved CMOS Image System: When light transmitted by a lens strikes a perpendicular target such as a CMOS image sensor, it forms a circle of light called an image circle. It’s difficult for a flat (planar) CMOS image sensor to deliver high image sensitivity at high resolution (highly scaled pixel pitch) because of the fundamental physical limit known as quantum efficiency. To break through that physical limit and to achieve higher sensitivity anywhere within the image circle at higher resolution, Sony built and will describe an imaging system that comprises a hemispherically curved, back-illuminated CMOS image sensor (BIS) and integrated lens. It doubles the sensitivity at the edge of the image circle while increasing sensitivity at its center by a factor of 1.4, with a 5x reduction of dark current (Jd) compared to a planar BIS. Moreover, a common problem known as lens field curvature aberration (Afc) is mitigated by the curved sensor itself, and so the curved BIS enables higher system sensitivity with a brighter lens with a smaller F number (Fn) than is possible with a planar BIS. In addition, by controlling the tensile stress of the BIS chip to produce a curved shape in the first place, the energy band-gap (Eg) is widened and a lower Jd is achieved. (Paper T2.1, “A Novel Curved CMOS Image Sensor Integrated with Imaging System,” K. Itonaga et al., Sony)"

Concept of an imaging system which integrates
a curved sensor with a brighter (lower F number)
lens for better image sensitivity.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sony Presents 2nd Generation 13MP Stacked Sensor for Smartphones

Sony presents 13MP IMX214 sensor, already featuring in Oppo Find 7 and OnePlus One smartphones. The 1/4-inch 1.12um pixel IMX214 is said to be "the industry's first 13M-Pixel CMOS image sensor enabling HDR output at 30 frame/s." The new sensor utilizes SME-HDR (Spatially Multiplexed Exposure HDR) technology. It sets two different exposures in a single frame and performs image processing to generate HDR images. A reduced backside optical stack helps to improve the color crosstalk and angular sensitivity over the 1st generation stacked sensor IMX135:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Forza Silicon Presents 100+MP 60fps Camera Platform

Forza Silicon introduces the Forza 100+ MP CAM Platform featuring a customizable CMOS image sensor operating at 60fps and supporting multiple camera resolutions­. The dual-mode camera operates in B&W or color and has a proprietary onboard image processor. It can be configured to capture image sequences at resolutions approaching 200MP while maintaining 60fps speed. The modular platform includes a high resolution, visible CMOS image sensor module and camera reference design that can be customized to allow for fast integration into multiple camera hardware designs and applications.

Brandywine Photonics Shows 1st Picture from its Deeply Depleted BSI Sensor

Brandywine Photonics got first images from its FBX-640×512 BSI CMOS sensor with deep depletion, specifically designed for hyperspectral imaging with enhanced NIR sensitivity. The QE, dark noise, and frame rate numbers will be reported later. The sensor was first announced in May 2013 as being in the fab.

Invisage Announces $18M Funding Round, Sensor Sampling

Marketwired: InVisage announces $18M round of funding bringing the total amount that it has raised since its creation to more than $100M. Investors include GGV Capital, Nokia Growth Partners, RockPort Capital, InterWest Partners, Intel Capital and OnPoint Technologies. The additional funding enables InVisage to scale manufacturing capacity from its initial pilot production line to support high volume customers and further its mission to mass produce fast, thin, high performance cameras in ultra-small form-factors.

InVisage also expands its leadership team with two new additions: Ephraim Kwok as CFO and Emanuele Mandelli as VP of Engineering. Mandelli has more than 20 years of image sensor, x-ray detectors and particle physics detectors experience. Most recently, he worked for AltaSens.

Venture Beat quotes Invisage CEO, Jess Lee telling that "the company expects to deliver its final product samples to manufacturing partners within the next few quarters, and it will take another six to nine months before the technology can be implemented in future products".

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lytro Illum Features 40 Megaray Sensor

Lytro announces its second generation lightfield camera having DSLR look and featuring a new, custom-designed 40 Megaray image sensor (vs 11 Megaray in the 1st generation). As with the 1st Lytro generation, the number of pixels in the final image has not been disclosed.

Lytro Illum sensor

Venture Beat publishes a video interview with Lytro Founder Ren Ng explaining the features of the new camera:

DPReview publishes a Q&A session with Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal and Ren Ng. Few quotes:

Q: "What's new about the sensor? It's listed at 40 megarays, but how would you explain that in terms that are more relatable to stills photographers?"

Rosenthal: "It's basically a 4x step up in terms of both number of pixels and underlying resolution, as well as sensor area size ... The sensor in the previous camera was 1/3", essentially a mobile sensor. This is a 1" sensor with an [underlying] 40-megapixel resolution."

Monday, April 21, 2014

ZTE Flagship Phone Features Aptina Clarity+ Sensor

Aptina reports that ZTE Star 1 smartphone features the company's Clarity+ color filter technology.

Sony Presents Security ISP Roadmap

Sony has updated its pages on Effio and Xarina ISPs for security and surveillance cameras. The high-end Xarina line is going to be split into 2K and 4K ones with added support for RGB-W CFA and few other features:

MTF at Different Wavelengths

Albert Theuwissen continues his "How to Measure MTF" series of articles. The latest part discusses MTF measurements at different wavelengths.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Himax Reveals Cooperation with ST, Array and Lightfield Cameras Plans

Himax investor presentation reveals a cooperation with ST and plans to start a mass production of 2x2 and 4x4 array cameras in Q2 2014:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Machine Vision Algorithm Advances

TechCrunch: Google Street View team reports that its recent text and street numbers recognition algorithm can be successfully used for solving CAPTCHA puzzles widely used on the web to determine a human versus a spam bot. The algorithm has been presented in a paper at the International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR).

I have a feeling that this algorithm has leaked outside Google, as starting from about Sept. 2013 the amount of spam comments in this blog has grown dramatically. On same days, per each real comment I get 10 spam ones, in spite of CAPTCHA protection.

Google algorithm recoginizes this with 99.8% accuracy

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Google Project Tango Uses Primesense 3D SoC

iFixIt teardown of Google Project Tango 3D camera revealed that it uses Primesense's recent Capri PS1200 SoC and its IR illuminator projects a familiar structured light dot pattern:

Yves Faroudja's Pre-processor Improves Video Compression Efficiency

EETimes: Yves Faroudja presents a layered way to improve the video compression efficiency at NAB. He adds a new pre-processor layer, prior to a standard encoder such as H.264, HEVC, or MPEG 2, and post-processor (after compression decoding). "We take an image and simplify it; and that simplified image goes through the regular [standards-based] compression process," Faroudja explains. "But we never throw away information." This additional information is inserted in what Faroudja calls a "support layer." This compresses signals not used in Faroudja's so-called simplified image. Together with the decompressed simplified image, the support layer helps reconstruct the original image in full resolution and at 35-50% reduced bit rate at the same quality.

Imec's Image Sensor Services

Imec published a brochure about its image sensor services offerings: "Imec offers services ranging from development-on-demand,
over prototyping, to low-volume production." Imec has 200mm and 300mm image sensor fabs with 65nm, 90nm and 130nm processes, including an extensive image sensor toolbox:

  • Specific substrate (HR-Silicon, thick or graded dopant epi)
  • Pixels (3T, 4T, trench isolation, embedded CCD pixels in CMOS)
  • BSI processing
  • Hyperspectral filters
  • Special ARCs (CMOS compatible)
  • Stitching / Butting capabilities for large area imagers
  • Micro-bumping, 3D integration with TSVs
  • Capability to develop dedicated pixel technologies (e.g. for SPADs).
  • Organic imagers (polymer photo diodes & full imagers)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Panasonic Proposes High Resolution Light Field Imaging

Lightfield Forum reviews Panasonic patent application on high resolution light field imaging. The US20140078259 "Light field image capture device and image sensor" by Masao Hiramoto, Yasunori Ishii, and Yusuke Monobe proposes to place microlens behind the photosensitive layer, rather than in front of it like in most other light field imaging approaches. This promotes the Panasonic-Fujifilm organic sensing layer possibilities:

The control layer 1b switches the light reflected from the layer 1c between the 1st and 2nd image capturing sessions:

Monday, April 14, 2014

ON Semi Announces a Family of 4.8um GS Pixel Sensors

Business Wire: ON Semiconductor announces a new PYTHON CMOS image sensor family based on 4.8um global shutter pixels. With resolutions of 300K, 500K and 1.3MP respectively, the PYTHON 300, 500 and 1300 feature in-pixel CDS (ipCDS) - global shutter with CDS in a relatively compact pixel size. The new PYTHON pixel combines a read noise of less than 9 e-, with 7.7 V/lux sensitivity and frame rates as high as 850fps (VGA format). A highly configurable sequencer also allows designers to tailor the sensor operation to the exact needs of the application, including support for fast on the fly updates to the sensor configuration. The sensor's operation is supported across the -40°C to +85°C industrial temperature range.

The new VGA, SVGA and SXGA are the first three sensors in the PYTHON family, with additional higher resolutions planned for release in the near future. All are pin-to-pin compatible with one-another and with the existing VITA1300 image sensor.

"With our new PYTHON image sensors we provide a cost-effective, high performance solution that will address the needs of the growing number of image sensing applications across a range of end markets," said Thad Smith, Director of the Image Sensor business unit at ON Semiconductor. "PYTHON offers an image sensing solution that not only provides appealing levels of speed without compromising image quality, but is also configurable and flexible enough to provide simple integration across multiple resolutions."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rambus Conditional Reset Patent Application

Rambus PCT application WO/2014/055391 "Conditional-Reset Multi-Bit Read-out Image Sensor" by Thomas Vogelsang, Michael Guidash, Song Xue, and James Harris talks about a version of the old idea to expand DR by resetting pixel each time its signal value crosses a threshold during the integration time: "If the pixel signal exceeds a sampling threshold, the photosensitive element is reset. During an image capture period, digital values associated with pixel signals that exceed a sampling threshold are accumulated into image data."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Powering Image Sensor in Automotive Camera

EETimes Europe publishes an article on how the automotive power circuit for image sensor is built. Nothing unusual there, looks more like an application note. The authors tried to adapt the sensor power to 25mVpp noise coming from a switched regulator. The camera is based on Aptina 1.2MP sensor.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Foveon Quattro Resolution Expanations

Imaging Resource publishes an interview with Foveon's GM Shri Ramaswami explaining resolution enhancement claims of the latest Foveon Quattro sensor. Basically, the reason is that the top high resolution layer is "blue-heavy" rather than blue:

"You can see that the top layer is blue-heavy, but it's not blue. The next layer is green-heavy, but it isn't green. The bottom is red-heavy. None of these is just red, green, or blue -- that really allows you to do something very interesting. So this is fundamentally a pretty smart way to keep your information, but at the same time, reduce the whole load on the system, because these things are not pure colors. It may sound counterintuitive, but it actually allows you to separate out very cleanly all the detail information -- as we call it -- from the top layer, and understand where the color detail comes from. In other words, it allows us to actually get back what was apparently lost." Regarding the possibility to enhance resolution with a pure RGB sensitivity, Shri responds "It would be impossible then, without that correlation, to do this."

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Sony Too Applies for GS Pixel with Internal Storage

Sony patent application US20140084138 "Solid-state image sensor, method for the same, and electronic device" by Takashi Machida is quite similar to few other global shutter pixel proposals. I wonder if this patent will be ever granted:

Omnivision Proposes BSI Sensor with No Color Filter

Omnivision patent application US20140084135 "Backside-Illuminated Photosensor Array With White, Yellow ad Red-Sensitive Elements" by Gang Chen, Duli Mao, Hsin-Chih Tai proposes to use different PD depths in BSI sensor to get pixels sensitive to white (PD extends all the way to the backside), Yellow, and Red (shallow PD). I'm not sure what are the advantages of this approach, but it's a simple and nice idea:

Monday, April 07, 2014

Image Sensor Conferences Multiply

Smithers Apex, the organizers of Image Sensors Conference in London, UK, now offer two more conferences:

Image Sensors Americas, to be held on September 9-11, 2014 at Hyatt Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, USA. Confirmed speakers include Masahiko Koyanagi, UX Specialist, Huawei, Japan and Satoshi Miyazaki, Hyper Suprime-Cam Project, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Japan. The program will cover plenoptic cameras, gesture control, medical imaging, automotive and broadcast cameras.

Image Sensors Automotive to be held on June 17-18, 2014 at the Crowne Plaza Brussels - Le Palace, Belgium. Speakers confirmed from: Euro NCAP, BMW, Continental, Ficosa, SmartSurv Vision Systems, Valeo Vision Systems, Texas Instruments, Yogitech, Aptina, OmniVision, Toshiba, Melexis, aSpect Systems, Alain Dunoyer (SBD), DxO Labs.

Sony Announces High Speed Full-Frame Sensor with 4K 30fps Video Support

PR Newswire: Sony new Alpha 7s full-frame DSLR features a new 12MP sensor capable to shot 4K 30fps video from entire sensor area with no binning or skipping. An official Youtube video talks about the new sensor's improved sensitivity and DR:

Sunday, April 06, 2014

The 2nd Imaging Forum Announced

Albert Theuwissen announces the 2nd Imaging Forum, to be held on Dec. 11-12, 2014. The subject of the second forum is "Advanced Digital Image Processing". The audience is strictly limited to 28 people, to stimulate the interaction between the participants and speaker(s). The speaker(s) will be announced in the coming weeks.

Sony Image Sensor Business

Sony publishes some data showing its semiconductor manufacturing capacity, as of Feb. 6, 2014. A part that relates to image sensors production:

Production Capacity (per month):
  • CMOS Image Sensor - 60M units
  • CCDs - 12M units

Image sensor fabs:
  • Japan:
    Sony Semiconductor Corporation Nagasaki TEC (CMOS Image Sensor)
    Kagoshima TEC (CCD Image Sensor)
    Kumamoto TEC (CCD&CMOS Image Sensor)
  • Overseas:
    Sony Device Technology (Thailand) Co., Ltd. (CCD&CMOS Image Sensor assembly)

Sharp's Roadmap for 2014

Sharp publishes a catalog with its CCD and CMOS sensors and camera modules roadmap. The high resolution part of it is shown below:

Looks like 1-inch optical format becoming popular (Sony, Aptina, and now Sharp):

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Nest Halts Sales Due to Gesture Control Bug

Gigaom reports that the recent Google's $3.2B acquisition, Nest, halts the sales of its Protect smart smoke alarm due to a flaw in its gesture-based user interface. Users were supposed to be able to pause the alarm by waving at it. However the alarm could be unintentionally turned off also by some other types of movement, so that if there is a fire and the alarm is going off, a nearby movement could falsely pause it. Nest's Youtube video shows how the gesture control was supposed to work in a correct way:

Friday, April 04, 2014

Invisage Files Round D Docs

Invisage files SEC form for round D investment on March 25. The company intends to raise $30M in this round, of which it has raised $17,832,709 so far.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S5 Sensor has Phase Detection Pixels

Chipworks publishes more details about Galaxy S5 primary camera.The 16 MP ISOCELL image sensor with 1.12 µm pixel has phase-detection pixel pairs distributed across nearly the entire active pixel array. This marks the smallest phase detection pixel generation Chipworks has seen and only the second time they have seen on a BSI sensor (Toshiba was first @ 1.4 µm). Chipworks says: "The presence of phase detection pixels also implies the use of a back aperture grid (with the phase detection pixels being half-masked). The use of an aperture grid would also be a first for Samsung (based on our analysis)."

Update: Chipworks also publishes a pixel cross-section from an older 8MP Samsung ISOCELL sensor:

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

ON Semi to Acquire Truesense Imaging

Business Wire: ON Semiconductor has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Truesense Imaging, a former Kodak image sensor business. The acquisition of Truesense Imaging complements ON Semiconductor’s image-sensor business by expanding its technology portfolio and adding more than 200 new customers. Under the terms of the agreement, ON Semiconductor will pay approximately $92M in cash to acquire Truesense Imaging.

"The pending acquisition of Truesense Imaging is a step towards our stated strategic goal of expanding our presence in select segments of the industrial end-market," said Keith Jackson, president and CEO of ON Semiconductor. "With the acquisition of Truesense, we will augment our abilities to deliver a broad range of high-performance image sensors to the industrial end-market and at the same time significantly expand our customer footprint. I am excited about the growth opportunities the combination of the two companies presents in the high-performance imaging market."

"ON Semiconductor is an ideal strategic fit for Truesense as we share a common vision for expanding the capabilities of high-performance sensors used in the world’s most demanding imaging applications," said Chris McNiffe, CEO of Truesense Imaging. "This combination enables us to leverage our technology base and four decades of imaging expertise with ON Semiconductor’s R&D, manufacturing and global logistics infrastructure. We are very excited to join the ON Semiconductor organization and to enable new growth opportunities for both our customers and our employees."

Based on unaudited results, Truesense Imaging’s revenue for 2013 was approximately $79M with gross and operating margins of approximately 44% and 23%, respectively. Truesense Imaging will be incorporated in ON Semiconductor’s Application Products Group (APG) business group. The transaction has been approved by ON Semiconductor’s and Truesense Imaging’s boards of directors and is anticipated to close before the end of Q22014, subject to required regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

Market Wired publishes a PR of Platinum Equity, the current owner of Truesense: "This is a textbook example of the value Platinum Equity's approach can provide many different stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of an investment," said Platinum Equity's Jason Leach, who led the initial acquisition. "First we provided a divestiture solution to a seller in need as Kodak confronted a difficult period of restructuring. We then executed a complex carve out with minimal disruption and established the business as an independent company that has thrived under our stewardship, to the benefit of Truesense customers, suppliers and employees. We have now found a new home for Truesense that we believe is a perfect fit."

Thanks to MD for the info!

Aptina Aims its 1-inch and 1/2-inch 4K Image Sensors to Security and Surveillance Applications

Business Wire: Aptina re-targets the previously announced 1-inch 4K AR1011HS sensor to security and surveillance markets. The AR1011HS is a 10.8MP image sensor based on a large 3.4µm DR-Pix pixel (84dB DR according to web site, 66dB according to flyer). At full-resolution, the AR1011HS offers 60fps video, nearly double that of competitive sensors, while jumping to 120 fps for 1080p HD mode. For cameras with a smaller optical format, Aptina introduces another previously announced sensor, the 1/2-inch 18MP AR1820HS, too capable of 4K video. The AR1820HS offers a summing mode that jumps the SNR by 6dB in 1080p videos while lowering the overall operating power.

"Arecont Vision is pleased to be the first to demonstrate the Aptina AR1011HS 4K image sensor in an ultra-high definition (UHD) IP security camera," said Raul Calderon, SVP at Arecont Vision. "Our newest 4K camera utilizing the Aptina AR1011HS is a high-performance addition to our portfolio of megapixel imaging technology that will help us continue to lead the market in professional security applications and products."

"Aptina will continue to innovate imaging solutions for surveillance customers," said Sandor Barna, CTO at Aptina. "Delivering full resolution and 4K video in a variety of optical formats allows surveillance developers to increase the image quality, improve the overall reliability and lower the total cost of ownership of their security solutions."

Aptina AR1011HS 1-inch, 10.8MP sensor.
AR1011HS Block Diagram
1/2-inch AR1820 video modes

Pyxalis Adopts Cortus Processors for its Smart Sensors

Design & Reuse: Pyxalis announces that it has been using Cortus APS cores in multiple image sensor designs. The processors offer the possibility to integrate more application-specific image processing functions such as auto-white balance, auto-exposure control, etc.

"By using Cortus processor cores we have been able to offer our customers very flexible sensor operation enabling a lot of different modes depending on the applications", says Philippe Rommeveaux, CEO of Pyxalis. He adds, "Cortus processor cores, with their small silicon footprint, complement our Pyxalis IP allowing us to efficiently deliver designs for different market segments".

"We are honoured to be chosen by Pyxalis for their high performance image sensors", says Michael Chapman, CEO and President of Cortus, "Their approach of adding intelligence close to the sensor is an emerging trend in the industry. Using a processor core not only offers programmability to end users, but helps the Pyxalis design team efficiency by making derivative designs easier to implement".

To date over 500 million devices have been manufactured containing Cortus processor cores.

Omnivision Announces Sensors for Security Cameras

PR Newswire: OmniVision launches two new CameraChip sensors for high-end security and surveillance applications. The OV5658 and OV10823 offer improved light sensitivity, HDR and wide FOV.

"Driven by a transition in mid-range security and surveillance cameras to HD resolutions, high-end systems are quickly adopting even higher-resolution image sensors that can support features such as facial recognition and biometrics, on top of excellent scene reproduction," said Raymond Wu, president at OmniVision. "With this in mind, we're bringing to market two highly competitive imaging solutions, designed to deliver extremely clear high-resolution video with wide FOV. The combination of these benefits ensures detailed scene reproduction and improved video analytics processing for automated security systems."

The 1/3.2-inch 5MP OV5658 features 1.75um OmniBSI+ pixel and is capable of full-resolution 5MP video at 30fps or 1080p or 720p HD video at 60fps, or at 30fps with extra pixels for EIS. The 1/2.6-inch OV10823 uses 1.4um OmniBSI-2 pixel and is able to capture full-resolution 10.5MP video at 30fpa and ultra-high-resolution 4K2K video at 30fps. With a form factor of 7.63 x 5.98 mm in chip scale packaging (CSP), the OV10823 is said to be the security industry's smallest image sensor capable of recording 4K2K video.

The OV5658 is available in volume production. The OV10823 is currently sampling, with volume production expected to begin in the second quarter of 2014.

Open Access Section on Advanced Image Sensor Technology

A "Special Section on Advanced Image Sensor Technology" is now published in ITE Transactions on Media Technology and Applications (MTA) Vol. 2(2014) No. 2. Professors Shoji Kawahito and Jun Ohta served as an Editor-in-Chief and a Secretary of the special section, respectively. The 200-page MTA publication, full of interesting image sensor papers, is open access, and everyone can read it free of charge.

Omnivision Announces Low-Cost GS Sensor

OmniVision launches the OV6211, said to be the world's smallest global shutter sensor for applications such as notebooks, tablets, mobile phones, wearable electronics, gaming devices and security systems. The OV6211 can be used for gesture recognition, eye tracking, depth and motion detection, as well as biometrics. The OV6211 captures 400 x 400 (square) resolution video at 120 fps consuming 85mW power.

The OV6211 features a 3um OmniPixel3-GS global shutter pixel. The sensor features two low-power modes: light sensing mode and ultra-low power mode. In light sensing mode, the OV6211 wakes up from "sleep mode" only when a change in light has been detected. In ultra-low power mode, the sensor reduces resolution and frame rates to conserve additional power. These two features allow the sensor to be used in "always on" mode while consuming very little power.

The 1/10.5-inch OV6211 fits into an ultra-compact 3.2 x 3.2 mm chip-scale package (CSP3). The sensor is currently in volume production.

ISORG and Plastic Logic Get IDTechEx Product Development Award

PR Newswire: Plastic Logic and ISORG were jointly awarded the IDTechEx Product development award at the Printed Electronics Show in Berlin. This award was for their jointly developed flexible image sensor which also won the Flexi Award at Flextech, Phoenix, USA in February. The flexible sensor demonstration, which is only a fraction of a millimeter thick (~150 microns) and weighs only 2.7 grams, gave a glimpse of the huge range of possible applications for the large area sensor technology. The overall market for printed and flexible sensors is forecast to be worth over $7Bn by 2020 (IDTechEx 2014).

The range of possible new applications of the flexible sensor includes smart packaging and sensors for medical equipment and biomedical diagnostics, security and mobile commerce (user identification by fingerprint scanning), environmental and other industrial uses, and gesture recognition for laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Rear View Cameras Mandatory in the US Starting 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule requiring rear view cameras in all new vehicles. The rule requires all vehicles under 10,000 pounds, including buses and trucks, manufactured on or after May 1, 2018, to come equipped with rear visibility technology that expands the field of view to enable the driver of a motor vehicle to detect areas behind the vehicle to reduce death and injury resulting from backover incidents. The field of view must include a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. The system must also meet other requirements including image size, linger time, response time, durability, and deactivation.

HTC One (M8) Duo Camera Details

Gizmodo publishes an interview with Symon Whitehorn, HTC's Director of Camera Development and the father of the Duo Camera (used to work for Kodak). Few interesting bits:

"...the basis of it is sort of old technology. You take a stereoscopic view of the world, much like your brain does—you see the world in 3D and you assign range and speed values to things based on your experience—and that's essentially what this is doing."

"There are a few early benefits we already have from this, which is the shallow depth-of-field "bokeh" kind of effect we can create that's typical of expensive glass. But there is going to be many more applications for it. We've just scratched the surface, and we're not really there yet in terms of the pure accuracy of the speed measurements, but the more we develop this platform, there's going to be some pretty intriguing data we're going to be able to extract."

The Ultrapixel "image sensor is based on last year's design, it's totally new (and comes from a new supplier). The revamped sensor should give daylight photos much better saturation and color accuracy."

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

TowerJazz Announces Kick-Off of its JV with Panasonic

Business Wire: TowerJazz announces the successful completion and kick-off of the JV with Panasonic. Within the scope of the JV, Panasonic transferred its semiconductor manufacturing process and capacity tools of 8 inch and 12 inch wafers at its Hokuriku factories (Uozu, Tonami and Arai) to the JV, committing to acquire its products from the JV for a long-term period of at least five years of volume production. TowerJazz is holding 51% of the shares of the JV, and its revenues are increased by approximately $400 million per annum. Panasonic Corporation will be a 49% shareholder of the JV.

TowerJazz will offer to its customers a capacity of a 300mm fab including 65nm CMOS image sensor process with low dark current and high QE, and added available capacity of approximately 800,000 wafers per year (8 inch equivalent) in three manufacturing facilities in Japan. The JV will continue the production of Panasonic's semiconductor processes as Panasonic's subcontractor as well as seek to expand operations by leveraging TowerJazz's customers and businesses to capture out-of-group sales.

In addition, TowerJazz intends to cease the operations of its Nishiwaki (Japan) facility in the course of restructure and rationalization of its Japan manufacturing and business plans. Nishiwaki fab used to manufacture CMOS sensors for Aptina. TowerJazz has acquired it from Micron in 2011.

VLSI Symposia: Sony Presents Curved Sensor

2014 VLSI Symposia programs have been published with a major image sensor news - Sony is to present its curved image sensor at the Technology Symposium.

2.1 A Novel Curved CMOS Image Sensor Integrated with Imaging System
K. Itonaga, T. Arimura*, K. Matsumoto*, K. Goro**, K. Terahata*, S. Makimoto**, M. Baba*, T. Kai*, S. Bori*, K. Kasahara*, M. Nagano**, M. Kimura**, Y. Kinoshita**, E. Kishida**, T. Baba, S. Baba, Y. Nomura, N. Tanabe, N. Kimizuka and Y. Matoba, Sony R&D Platform, *Sony Semiconductor Oita, **Sony Semiconductor Kumamoto

We realized an ultimately advanced imaging system that comprises a curved, back-illuminated CMOS image sensor (BIS) and integrated lens which doubles the sensitivity at the edge of the image circle and increases the sensitivity at the center of the image circle by a factor of 1.4 with one-fifth lower dark current than that of a planar BIS. Because the lens field curvature aberration was overcome in principle by the curved sensor itself, the curved BIS enables higher system sensitivity through design of a brighter lens with a smaller F number than is possible with a planar BIS. At the same time, we controlled the tensile stress of the BIS chip to produce a curved shape that widens the energy band-gap to obtain a lower dark current. The curved CIS can be applied to an ultimately advanced imaging system that is validated by the evolution of the animal eye in Nature.

Earlier, Sony has applied for a curved sensor patent which might become a base for the new product. Other big news is TSMC presenting its stacked sensor:

21.3 Advanced 1.1um Pixel CMOS Image Sensor with 3D Stacked Architecture
J.C. Liu, D.N. Yaung, J.J. Sze, C.C. Wang, G. Hung, C.J. Wang, T.H. Hsu, R.J. Lin, T.J. Wang, W.D. Wang, H.Y. Cheng, J.S. Lin, C.C. Chuang, S.Y. Chen, C.S. Tsai, Y.L. Tu, S. Takahashi, Y.P. Chao, F.J. shiu and S.G. Wuu, TSMC

This paper demonstrates an advanced 1.1um pixel backside illuminated CMOS image sensor with a 3D stacked architecture. The carrier wafer in conventional BSI is replaced by ASIC wafer, which contains a part of periphery circuit and is connected to the sensor wafer through bonding technology. With proper layout design and process improvement, the impact of 3D connection (Through Via, TV) on the sensor performance can be significantly minimized. In addition, for the first time, the degradation of stacked pixel performance during the folded circuit operation under sensor array is found and improved. The final stacked sensor exhibits the comparable pixel performances to conventional BSI. Furthermore, stacked architecture provides the opportunity to enhance sensor performance by the separate process tuning for sensor wafers (without any effect on ASIC wafers), leading to a further improvement of dark performance.

The Circuit Symposium has an image sensor session with 5 presentations:

17.1 A Millimeter-Scale Wireless Imaging System with Continuous Motion Detection and Energy Harvesting
G. Kim, Y. Lee, Z. Foo, P. Pannuto, Y.-S. Kuo, B. Kempke, M. Ghaed, S. Bang, I. Lee, Y. Kim, S. Jeong, P. Dutta, D. Sylvester and D. Blaauw, University of Michigan

We present a 2×4×4mm^3 imaging system complete with optics, wireless communication, battery, power management, solar harvesting, processor and memory. The system features a 160×160 resolution CMOS image sensor with 304nW continuous in-pixel motion detection mode. System components are fabricated in five different IC layers and die-stacked for minimal form factor. Photovoltaic (PV) cells face the opposite direction of the imager for optimal illumination and generate 456nW at 10klux to enable energy autonomous system operation.

17.2 A 65-nm 0.5-V 17-pJ/frame.pixel DPS CMOS Image Sensor for Ultra-Low-Power SoCs achieving 40-dB Dynamic Range
D. Bol, G. de Streel, F. Botman, A.K. Lusala and N. Couniot, Université catholique de Louvain

We propose a CMOS image sensor operating at ultra-low voltage (ULV) in a 65-nm low-power (LP) CMOS logic process for ultra-low-power SoC integration. Energy of 17-pJ/frame.pixel and 4×4-μm pixel size with 57-% fill factor are achieved at 0.5 V with digital pixel sensor (DPS) and time-based readout while reaching 40-dB dynamic range (DR) despite high leakage currents and Vt variability, thanks to delta-reset sampling (DRS) as well as gating and adaptive body biasing (ABB) of the 2-transistor (2-T) in-pixel comparator.

17.3 An On-chip 72×60 Angle-Sensitive Single Photon Image Sensor Array for Time-resolved 3-D Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging
C. Lee, B. Johnson and A. Molnar, Cornelll University

We present a 72×60, angle-sensitive single photon avalanche diode (A-SPAD) array, able to perform lens-less 3-D fluorescent lifetime imaging. The pixels use integrated diffraction gratings to extract incident angle, enabling 3-D localization and SPADs to resolve timing information, rejecting high-powered UV stimulus and mapping the lifetimes of different fluorescent sources. The chip
integrates pixel-level counters, and shared timing circuitry, and is implemented in unmodified 180nm CMOS.

17.4 320x240 Oversampled Digital Single Photon Counting Image Sensor
N.A.W. Dutton, L. Parmesan, A.J. Holmes*, L.A. Grant* and R.K. Henderson**, University of Edinburgh / STMicroelectronics Imaging Division, *STMicroelectronics Imaging Division, **University of Edinburgh

A 320x240 single photon avalanche diode (SPAD) based single photon counting image sensor is implemented in 0.13μm imaging CMOS with state of the art 8μm pixel pitch at 26.8% fill factor. The imager is demonstrated operating as a global shutter (GS) oversampled binary image sensor reading out at 5.14kFPS. Frames are accumulated in real time on FPGA to construct a 256 photon/8bit output image at 20FPS.

17.5 A 3.7M-pixel 1300-fps CMOS Image Sensor with 5.0G-Pixel/s High-Speed Readout Circuit
S. Okura, O. Nishikido, Y. Sadanaga, Y. Kosaka, N. Araki, K. Ueda, M. Tachibana and F. Morishita, Renesas Electronics Corporation

A 5.0G-pixel/s readout circuit for 15.3mm×8.6mm optical size, 3.7M-pixel, 1300 fps, and digital output image sensor is presented. To achieve 5.0G-pixel/s readout rate, the high speed column readout circuit is introduced. The novel pixel readout, A/D conversion, and digital data transfer schemes are introduced to realize the readout rate and to reduce the interference noise. The 1 horizontal (1H) readout time is realized to be 1.0us.

Thanks to ND for the news!

Chipworks Shows Samsung ISOCELL Cross-section

Chipworks publishes a cross-section of Samsung ISOCELL pixel taken from an 8MP sensor. The photograph clearly shows a front-side deep trench isolation (F-DTI) and vertical transfer gates (VTG):

Thanks to RF for the link!