Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hitachi Adds Image Sensor to its Air Conditioners

Hitachi iSee air conditioners use image sensors to directs cool air towards people, based on face detection:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Deep Learning Vision in USB Stick

MarketWired: Movidius introduces the powerful deep learning vision processing accelerator that fits into a USB Stick. It connects to existing systems and increases the performance of neural networking tasks by 20-30X. It performs at over 150GFLOPS while consuming under 1.2W.

Called Fathom, it targets developers, researchers, hobbyists and anyone developing deep learning applications.

Facebook's Director of Artificial Intelligence Yann LeCunn has said this about Fathom: “The Fathom neural compute stick is a compact, low-power deep learning accelerator for embedded applications that is quite unique. As a researcher and builder of intelligent machines, I've been dreaming of getting my hands on something like the Fathom USB key for a long time”.

Movidius CEO, Remi El-Ouazzane says: “It’s going to mean that very soon, consumers are going to be introduced to surprisingly smart applications and products. It means the same level of surprise and delight we saw at the beginning of the smartphone revolution; we’re going to see again with the machine intelligence revolution. With more than 1 million units of Myriad 2 already ordered, we want to make our VPU the de-facto standard when it comes to embedded deep neural network.

Movidius publishes a Youtube video presenting the new product:

ST Expresses Optimism on its Imaging Business Future

SeekingAlpha's ST Q1 2016 Earnings Call transcript has few words on its imaging business, primarily in Q&A section:

Günther Hollfelder - Baader Bank AG:

First question is on imaging systems, so what sort of sales level do you expect for imaging systems in 2016, and what sort of related loss this year for this business?

Carlo Bozotti - ST President & CEO:

I think we expect, first of all, the sequential improvement in the top line on our business, on imaging. And also an year-over-year improvement broad comparing Q2 2016 to Q2 2015, as I said before. And moving on during the course of 2016, we see additional opportunity for both sequential and year-over-year growth. As far as profitability performance, we do not provide the performance, we do not provide the quantification at the division level, but we see some good opportunities, and we see the evolution of this business also in terms of financial performance with a degree of optimism.

Sony 2015 Annual Report

Sony announces annual results for its fiscal 2015 year ended on March 31, 2016.

Update: SeekingAlpha earnings call transcript gives some info about Kumamoto TEC smartphone products:

"Looking forward to fiscal year '16, our target is to record a profit. A portion of the image sensors used in our smartphones and a portion of camera modules used in our smartphones are made at Kumamoto TEC and there is a possibility that the status of these production lines might have an adverse impact on the results of this business."

On the image sensor and camera module business, Sony says:

"An operating loss of ¥28.6 billion was recorded in fiscal year '15, significant deterioration of ¥117.6 billion compared to the previous fiscal year. As we announced last week, we recorded ¥59.6 billion impairment charge against fixed assets in the camera module business in the fourth quarter.

We first entered the camera module business in the later part of fiscal year '13. However, our ramp in manufacturing has been slower than expected, and we recorded a large impairment charges as a result.

We thought that we could increase yields and profit margins through automation of the assembly process. But, precisely because we did increase automation, we have limited ability to adapt to changes in specifications and demand. Currently, we are re‐considering the optimal size of this business.

In the image sensor business, which account for the majority of sales and profit in the devices segment, we are currently expanding our sales efforts, primarily to Chinese smartphone manufacturers, and orders are strong, but demand is not expected to recover in earnest until the second half of the fiscal year '16.

3rd Sony's Update on Kumamoto Fab Starus

Sony updates on the Kumamoto fab status today: Operations at Sony's Kumamoto Technology Center (located in Kikuchi Gun, Kumamoto Prefecture), which is the primary manufacturing site of image sensors for digital cameras and security cameras, were halted and currently remain suspended. With aftershocks continuing and employee safety the foremost priority, inspections of the facility and the development of a recovery plan remain ongoing. The current status of operations for the Kumamoto Technology Center is as follows:
  • Damage to the building itself has been confirmed to be primarily to the upper layer of the building, and reinforcement work will be carried out in this area.
  • The clean rooms used for wafer processing and manufacturing equipment, both located on the lower layer of the building have not been significantly damaged, and preparations are now underway to resume production. Manufacturing operations are targeted to resume around the end of May 2016.
  • Regarding back-end processes, such as assembly and measurement, as well as processing operations for components such as camera modules, which are carried out on the upper layer of the building, Sony has confirmed that there is damage to the clean rooms, manufacturing equipment and other equipment. Further analysis of the extent of this damage is currently underway.
  • Damage to finished product inventory such as image sensors at Kumamoto Technology Center is limited, and shipments of these products have already resumed. The status of semi-finished and uncompleted products is currently being confirmed.
The impact of the earthquakes on Sony Corporation's consolidated results continues to be evaluated. In the Devices segment, there is expected to be direct physical damage to Kumamoto Technology Center. Sony expects to incur expenses primarily for recovery and reinforcement work in response to the physical damage to the relevant portion of the Kumamoto Technology Center. Sony may also incur large opportunity losses, mainly in the Devices and Imaging Products & Solutions segments due to suspension of production for a certain period of time.

In addition, due to the suspension of manufacturing operations at Kumamoto Technology Center and potential disruption to the supply of components to Sony from certain third-party suppliers that also have manufacturing facilities in the Kumamoto region, it is possible that business operations within the Mobile Communications, Game & Network Services and Home Entertainment & Sound segments also may be affected. This potential impact is currently being evaluated.

Update: SeekingAlpha earnings call transcript explains more on the fab structure:

"Kumamoto TEC is extremely close to the epicenter of the - the largest earthquake that happened on April 16. It is a primary manufacturing site for image sensors for digital cameras and security cameras, as well as for the micro displays that go into projectors.

Kumamoto TEC has a bilayer structure with clean rooms in each layer. The clean rooms in the lower layer contain our wafer processing equipment and the clean rooms in the upper layer contain our testing equipment, camera module production equipment and other equipment.

The clean rooms in the lower layer, and the production treatment inside these clean rooms have not sustained significant damage. Since yesterday we have begun to start‐up the equipment in those clean rooms, and we expect to resume production in these rooms around the end of May.

On the other hand, the upper layer clean rooms did sustain damage and we are not able to say yet when we will restart operations. Damage to Kumamoto TEC's finished goods inventory is limited, and we are currently inspecting the status of its work‐in‐ progress inventory.

In the Devices segment, we expect there to be direct physical damage to Kumamoto TEC, and we expect to incur expenses primarily for recovery and reinforcement work. In addition, there is a possibility that large opportunity losses will be incurred, mainly in the Devices and Imaging Products & Solutions segments due to suspension of production at Kumamoto for a certain period of time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hyperspectral Imaging Intro

Photonics publishes a hyperspectral imaging video introduction by Greg Staples from Bayspec:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

GPixel Announces 95% QE Scientific Sensor

BusinessWire: Tucsen and Gpixel launch the Dhyana 95, a 95% QE camera utilizing BSI sensor technology.

Gpixel has commenced sampling of GSENSE400BSI-TVISB, an upgrade of its existing BSI sensor. The new version of the sensor offers a high QE of 95% at 580nm.

The Dhyana 95 with 2K x 2K resolution, 11um square pixel and readout noise of only 1.3 electrons, represents a viable alternative to EMCCD based cameras.

With 100,000 electron full well capacity and 93dB dynamic range, the Dhyana 95 provides excellent image quality in high contrast applications, at up to 35fps full frame and greater than 100fps at 1K x 1K resolution. Dark noise is minimized through -25℃ cooling of the hermetic sensor chamber.

Tucsen plans to release both cooled and uncooled versions of Dhyana 95 to meet the diverse needs of a broad range of users.

FLIR Explains Need for High Speed Thermal Camera

FLIR publishes a Youtube video on high speed thermal camera and its applications:

Barack Obama and Angela Merkel Test PMD Technology

Gizmodo, The Verge, ABC: The US President Obama and German Chancellor Merkel visited the Hannovermesse and tried on a Google Cardboard with pmd CamBoard pico flexx + handtracking Software from gestigon.

Monday, April 25, 2016

FLIR Presents Boson

FLIR's VP Dan Walker presents Boson, an intelligent LWIR camera module with Movidius vision processor, in the Youtube video:

Digitimes: Car Image Sensor Market to Reach $900M in 2020

Digitimes Research expects the car-use image sensor market to grow from US$440 million in 2015 to US$900 million in 2020. n the short term, from 2016-2018, most countries will include automatic emergency braking systems as an item for evaluating car safety, and in 2018 night sensor functions are expected to be included. As for the long term, by 2035, one in every four cars will feature semi-automatic or full-automatic driving technology and each of these cars will use up to 19 image sensors.

Sony's developments for car-use image sensor are focusing maintaining stable black level in high-temperature environments, reducing signal noise, developing high dynamic range imaging and enhancing image recognition in bad weather.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Samsung Galaxy S7 Teardown Slides

Chipworks publishes Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge teardown slides, a part of them devoted to its cameras:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sony Adds Some Details on Kumamoto Fab Damage

Sony publishes few more details on Kumamoto fab damage assessment after April 14, 2016 and subsequent earthquakes:

"Operations at Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation's Kumamoto Technology Center (located in Kikuchi Gun, Kumamoto Prefecture) were halted after the earthquakes and remain suspended. The extent of the damage caused by the earthquakes is being evaluated and preparations for the rehabilitation of the site are underway, with priority being placed on the safety of employees. Measures to minimize the impact on business operations are also under consideration.

The survey of damage to the Kumamoto Technology Center conducted so far has revealed damage to certain parts of the building, clean rooms and production equipment. The timeframe for resuming operations has yet to be determined. The Kumamoto Technology Center is the primary manufacturing site for image sensors for digital cameras and security cameras as well as for micro-display devices.

The impact of the earthquakes on Sony's consolidated results continues to be evaluated. The suspension of operations at the Kumamoto Technology Center may have an adverse impact on Sony's operating results, particularly in the Devices and Imaging Products & Solutions segments. In addition, the earthquakes have caused damage to the manufacturing facilities of certain third-party suppliers of components to Sony, the impact of which on Sony's business operations is currently being evaluated.

Sony Writes-Off its Camera Module Assets

Sony records an impairment charge in operating income of 59.6 billion yen related to long-lived assets in its camera module business.

Due to a decrease in projected future demand, Sony has revised its Mid-Range Plan for the camera module business in the Devices segment from the period beginning with the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017. Given the decrease in projected future demand, Sony performed an impairment analysis during the quarter ended March 31, 2016 and determined that future cash flows would not be sufficient to recover the entire carrying amount of the long-lived assets, leading to the recording of an impairment charge of 59.6 billion yen.

The earthquake of April 14, 2016 and subsequent earthquakes in the Kumamoto region have no impact on the consolidated financial results forecast for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2016. The impact on the consolidated financial results forecast for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017 is currently being evaluated.

Adimec Compares CCD and CMOS Cameras

Adimec demonstrated CCD camera and latest generation (Sony IMX250) CMOS based camera with and without color in low light.

On the left side of the company's Youtube video is the Adimec TMX7-DHD cameras (top is color and bottom is monochrome) using the Sony 2/3-inch ICX674 CCD image sensor with 4.54um pixel. On the right side is the Adimec TMX50 cameras (again top is color and bottom is monochrome) using the latest Sony 2/3-inch global shutter CMOS sensor IMX250 with 3.45um pixel. The TMX50 image is interpolated to match TMX7-DHD resolution of 1920x1080.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Automotive Image Quality Standard Proposed

Robert Stead, the founder of Sense Media organizing AutoSens conference, teams up with Patrick Denny of Valeo, Sven Fleck at SmartSurv, Benjamin May at AMX13, and a number of other professionals to submit IEEE Project Authorisation Request (PAR), Proposed Project 2020: Automotive System Image Quality.

From the submitted PAR:

5.2 Scope: This standard addresses the fundamental attributes that contribute to image and quality for automotive Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) applications, as well as identifying existing metrics and other useful information relating to these attributes. It defines a standardized suite of objective and subjective test methods for measuring automotive camera image quality attributes, and it specifies tools and test methods to facilitate standards-based communication and comparison among OEM and Tier 1 system integrators and component vendors regarding automotive ADAS image quality.

5.4 Purpose: This standard specifies methods and metrics for measuring and testing automotive image quality to ensure consistency and create cross-industry reference points.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Magic Leap Posts Another Video

The mysterious $3.7b-valued AR startup Magic Leap publishes another Youtube video "A New Morning. Welcome to a new way to start your day. Shot directly through Magic Leap technology on April 8, 2016 without use of special effects or compositing:"

Global Shutter Pixel Comparison

Point Grey publishes a nice comparison of Sony and Aptina global shutter sensor, including the latest Sony 3.45um pixel size IMX250 and IMX265. One can see them compared with 5.86um pixel in Sony IMX174 and IMX249 and Aptina's 3.75um pixel in AR0134:

Pixpolar Whitepaper on Security & Surveillance

Pixpolar publishes a whitepaper on low light imaging for security & surveillance:

Intel Promotes RealSense Imaging

Intel publishes a Youtube video promoting its RealSense 3D cameras and REAL 2016 exhibition:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

PDAF Report Update

Albert Theuwissen has updated the PDAF pixel report and included a figure-of-merit for PDAF. This FoM allows the reader to compare the efficiency of the PDAF pixels coming from different sensors, different technologies and different vendors. Also a couple of new references are added to list.

Sofradir Announces HD MWIR Imagers with 10um Pixels

ALA: Sofradir announces that its cost effective 3-4.8um MWIR Daphnis HD imager will enter production. The 10-micron pixel pitch high-definition IR detector claims superior performance against recently launched competitive 10µm products.

Thanks to the sharp square like profile of its Mercury Cadmium Telluride photodiode and enlarged MW band, DAPHNIS offers improved recognition range versus any competing 10µm pitch products we have recently seen introduced in the market” says Laurent Fullana, general manager at Sofradir. “This elevates DAPHNIS to the product of choice for applications like gimbals, high-end vehicles sights and Infrared search and track systems. Moreover, the ability to obtain an HD image format from a detector whose size fits previous platform generations is a real benefit as it facilitates customer system upgrades.

The new imager features:
  • Higher resolution, 1280 x 720 pixels
  • Longer range, achieves up to 55% DRI range improvement on the preceding generation of IR detectors
  • Wider field of view, enables up to twice the field coverage of 15 micron pixel pitch MWIR detectors
  • ROIC functionalities with digital output for easy integration
  • Fully compatible with HD screen formats and visible or SWIR camera channels

Dual Camera Smartphone Market Forecast

Daedal Research publishes "Global Dual Lens Smartphone Market: Trends & Opportunities (2016-2020)" research:

"For the span of next five years i.e. 2016-2020, projections are made that the market would rise tremendously at a significant CAGR. China is expected to lead the market accounting the significant share in the market.

The growth drivers for the global dual lens smartphone market are: expansion in fusion technology, production capacity expansion along with the rise in disposable income. Despite the market is governed by various growth drivers, there are certain challenges faced by the market such as: technological hurdles, stable sourcing of image sensor and migration to finer processes for image sensors, high-cost burdens, and algorithms.

Monday, April 18, 2016

NIR Microlens Comparison

OSA Optics Express publishes ISAE-SUPAERO and CNRS joint paper "Integration of nanostructured planar diffractive lenses dedicated to near infrared detection for CMOS image sensors" by Thomas Lopez, Sébastien Massenot, Magali Estribeau, Pierre Magnan, Fabrice Pardo, and Jean-Luc Pelouard. The paper compares pixel Plasmonic Lens, Phase-Fresnel Lens, and metallic diffractive lens technologies for a monochromatic application at 1.064µm:

"The first is a Plasmonic Lens, based on the phase delay through nanoslits, which has been found to be hardly compatible with current CMOS technology and exhibits a notable metallic absorption. The second is a dielectric Phase-Fresnel Lens integrated at the top of a pixel, it exhibits an Optical Efficiency (OE) improved by a few percent and an angle of view of 50°. The third one is a metallic diffractive lens integrated inside a pixel, which shows a better OE and an angle of view of 24°."

Sony Reports on Kumamoto Fab Status

Sony says that operations at its Kumamoto Technology Center, which manufactures image sensors for digital cameras and security cameras, were halted after the earthquake on April 14, and currently remain suspended. Damage to the site's building and manufacturing lines is currently being evaluated, and with aftershocks continuing, the timeframe for resuming operations has yet to be determined.

Although some of the manufacturing equipment at Nagasaki Technology Center, which is Sony's main facility for smartphone image sensor production, and Oita Technology Center, former Toshiba fab which commenced operations as a wholly-owned facility of Sony on April 1, had been temporarily halted, the affected equipment has been sequentially restarted from April 17, and production has resumed. Sony Kagoshima Technology Center (located in Kirishima City, Kagoshima Prefecture) has continued its production operations after the earthquakes, and there have been no major effects on its operations.

Sony has confirmed the safety of all of its and its group companies' employees in the region affected by the earthquakes.

The impact of these events on Sony's consolidated results is currently being evaluated.

Digitimes publishes its speculations of the possible impact of the earthquake on the image sensor industry: "Because of Sony CIS solutions are highly customized, clients may have difficulties shifting orders to other suppliers in the short term. Switching orders to other suppliers will cause 2-3 month delays before they receive products.

With Apple's smartphone shipments expected to be impacted, Taiwan component suppliers that rely heavily on Apple's orders are also expected to see their performances influenced.

Sony's CIS shortage issue may benefit the second-largest CIS supplier worldwide, Samsung Electronics.

Movidius and FLIR Present Smart LWIR Camera Module

Marketwired: Movidius announces a strategic collaboration with FLIR to bring advanced computer vision capabilities to Boson, FLIR’s latest LWIR camera core. FLIR integrates the Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit (VPU) into its thermal core, Boson, creating what is called the most intelligent thermal imaging solution on the market today.

FLIR has developed the first-ever integrated solution that now allows customers to take advantage of these new advancements while continuing to leverage FLIR’s unique thermal imaging technology and support ecosystem. FLIR will be instrumental in deploying advanced computer vision in applications such as home security, personal vision systems, drones, law enforcement and defense,” said Movidius CEO, Remi El-Ouazzane.

We’re pleased to work with Movidius to deliver this amount of compute power into the size, weight and power requirements of the product you see today,” said Andy Teich, President and CEO of FLIR Systems. “With system-on-a-chip interfaces and machine intelligence capability available through Movidius, we enable FLIR cores to make greater sense of the rich information being captured by our sensors.

Boson LWIR core features:
  • Configurable VGA and QVGA thermal camera cores or sensor only with industry-leading SWaP
  • 640 and 320 resolutions; 12 μm pixel pitch VOx microbolometer
  • Multiple high­ performance FOV options; eight QVGA options and seven VGA options
  • Multiple levels of sensitivity starting at 21 x 21 x 11 mm, 10­gram camera body
  • Low power consumption, starting at 500 mW
  • Rugged construction and highest temperature rating ­40°C to +80°C
  • Integrated Myriad2 VPU for advanced image processing includes embedded algorithms for super resolution, noise filters, gain control, blending, and more
  • Embedded video analytics bring high­end intelligence out of the box
  • Software­ customizable functionality for video processing and power dissipation requirements
  • Built­in support for physical and protocol­ level interface standards such as Ethernet, USB, SD card, LCD interfaces, and wireless video
  • Inputs and processing for auxiliary sensors such as visible sensors for FLIR’s image blending and third­ party GPS and IMU sensors

Movidus Youtube video talks about the new product potential:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

2016 Harvest Imaging Forum

Albert Theuwissen announces his 4th Harvest Imaging Forum "Durability of CMOS Technology and Circuitry outside the Imaging Core: integrity, variability and reliability" to be held in Dec. 2016. More info will be posted in the coming weeks.

Compressive Sensing Camera with Pixel-wise Coded Exposure

OSA Optics Express publishes Johns Hopkins University paper "Compact all-CMOS spatiotemporal compressive sensing video camera with pixel-wise coded exposure" by Jie Zhang, Tao Xiong, Trac Tran, Sang Chin, and Ralph Etienne-Cummings. The paper presents a prototype 127 × 90 pixels image sensor that can reconstruct 100 fps videos from coded images sampled at 5 fps. With 20× reduction in readout speed, the novel CMOS sensor only consumes 14μW to provide 100 fps videos.

"Figure 1 shows the difference between a conventional camera with global exposure and a PCE camera. In a conventional global exposure camera, all the pixels are exposed for a fixed amount of time (T v) to readout one image at readout frame rate of 1/T v. This is compared to a PCE camera, in which pixels are exposed through a random short “single-on” exposure of fixed duration (Te) within T v. The readout circuit only samples the pixel value at the end of T v with readout speed of 1/T v. PCE essentially compresses a spatiotemporal video into a single coded image. Upon on receiving the coded image, PCE reconstructs the entire video from the single coded image using sparse spatiotemporal reconstruction with an over-complete dictionary.

Since the reconstructed framerate is 1/(unit time o f Te), PCE provides a high frame rate using the same readout speed as a conventional image sensor. PCE is also different from traditional spatial CS approach, which recovers one frame using multiple random spatial samples. Thus, PCE is more optimal for video applications because the sparse samples include both spatial and temporal information.

Sensing for Autonomous Driving

Mobileye’s Co-founder, CTO, and Chairman, Amnon Shashua, talks about deep learning networks used to process sensor info in autonomous vehicle:

Meanwhile, SeekingAlpha presents a skeptical view on Mobileye's autonomous driving approach.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Second Earthquake Affects Two Sony Fabs

Reuters reports that Sony extends production halts on Saturday after a second 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck a key manufacturing hub in southern Japan. The image sensor plant in Kumamoto on the southern island of Kyushu had been already shut after an initial 6.5 magnitude quake rocked the region on Thursday.

Sony says that operations at its image sensor plant in Nagasaki, also in Kyushu, will be partially suspended too. Sony is assessing damage at the two plants and does not yet have a timeline for resuming operations.

"We are still checking for potential damage to the plants, which usually operate on a 24-hour basis," a Sony spokesman told Reuters. "We do not yet know how the closures will impact supply to customers like Apple."

Sony Nagasaki Technology Center (left) and
Kumamoto Technology Center (right)

Update: Another Reuters report quotes Sony spokesperson saying “We are not expecting any immediate supply disruption as we have some inventories right now. We will make an announcement promptly if any supply issues emerge.” He said the company was hoping to resume operations as soon as aftershocks end, and would probably provide an update on late Monday afternoon. "We are still checking for potential damage to the plants, which usually operate on a 24-hour basis," he said.

Apple could not be immediately reached for comment. Samsung says it has diversified its sources for image sensors used in its smartphones and the quakes will have no impact on its flagship products.

Update #2: Reuters: Sony on Sunday said production at its image sensor plant in Kumamoto, southern Japan, remained suspended as it assessed damage from a powerful earthquake. Operations at its image sensor plants in Nagasaki and Oita, also on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, fully resumed, the company said. The Kumamoto plant has been offline since Friday, while operations at the Nagasaki and Oita plants were partially suspended on Saturday.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Columbia University Presents Deformable Lens

DPReview: Columbia University publishes its paper to be presented on IEEE International Conference on Computational Photography (ICCP), May 2016: "Towards Flexible Sheet Cameras: Deformable Lens Arrays with Intrinsic Optical Adaptation" by D.C. Sims, Y. Yue and S.K. Nayar. The accompanying Youtube video explains the idea:

Another Columbia University video presents its Cambits reconfigurable camera concept.

Intel Adds RealSense Camera to its Compute Stick

Liliputing reports that Intel demonstrates a prototype of its Compute Stick with a 3D RealSense Camera, as shown in Notebook Italia video - quite a lot of intelligence in a very small form factor:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

ITE Special Section on Advanced Image Sensor Technology

Japan ITE Transactions on Media Technology and Applications Vol. 4(2016) No. 2 is devoted to a Special Section on Advanced Image Sensor Technology featuring 12 open-access papers from Sony, Canon, Renesas, several universities and more.

Canon paper "A Low Noise and High Sensitivity Image Sensor with Imaging and Phase-Difference Detection AF in All Pixels" by Masahiro Kobayashi, Michiko Johnson, Yoichi Wada, Hiromasa Tsuboi, Hideaki Takada, Kenji Togo, Takafumi Kishi, Hidekazu Takahashi, Takeshi Ichikawa, and Shunsuke Inoue shows QE trade-offs when implementing a dual-PD pixel:

Sony Kumamoto Fab in Earthquake Area

Bloomberg reports that Sony has evacuated employees from its southern Japan Kumamoto image sensor plant as a precaution after the 6.5-scale strong earthquake in the area, according to the company's spokeswoman Mami Imada. There are no reports of fire or injuries at the facility and the company will assess the extent of damage on facilities, she said.

Morningstar quotes
Sony spokesman saying that personnel at an image-sensor plant in Kumamoto prefecture were safe and there were no reports of serious damage, but the company was still assessing conditions.

Update: Bloomberg updates that the plant in Kumamoto on the southern island of Kyushu is still being inspected, Sony said. The strength of the earthquake, as well as persistent aftershocks, are raising the risk that it will take time to restore operations, Kenichi Saita, an analyst at Mizuho Securities, wrote in a report.

Still, he said he doesn’t expect the earthquake to have a major impact on camera-chip supplies, given current demand and Sony’s ability to shift production to other factories in Japan.

“We expect components for upcoming high-end smartphones to come from the Kumamoto factory, so there is concern on the impact on production and shipments,” Saita wrote.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Caeleste, LFoundry, and Airbus to Develop CMOS Sensor for Space Applications

BusinessWire: ESA has awarded and funded a contract to a European industrial consortium, led by Caeleste, with developing a new CMOS Sensor entirely designed, manufactured and tested within Europe. A High-Performance CMOS Sensor will be developed, aimed at demonstrating the capability to meet future ESA mission requirements (in terms of spectral sensitivity, SNR and environmental durability) for scientific space applications.

Caeleste, contributes to the project with over 250 man years of experience with the custom design and realization of CMOS sensors for various application domains, including space and astronomy applications.

LFoundry, with its wafer fab facility at Avezzano, Italy, is responsible for the manufacturing of the image sensor. LFoundry is able to manufacture sensors that respond to very stringent specifications such as cryogenic environment (at low temperatures - 180 degrees). Since 2006, the Avezzano site has been manufacturing imaging process technologies and products using technology nodes from 180nm down to 90nm technologies on 200mm wafers, including volume copper Back End of Line (BEOL), BSI processes and extensive testing capabilities.

Airbus Defence and Space will provide its 15 years’ experience in CMOS Sensors development for Space Applications and perform a characterization campaign in parallel to the one performed at Caeleste.

The collaboration with ESA makes us very proud,” declares Patrick Henckes, CEO at Caeleste “since we can play a strategic role in shaping the future of Europe’s space capability for image sensors, in accordance with the mission of ESA. Moreover, having LFoundry and Airbus Defence and Space as partners brings in their enormous expertise in this field and this will contribute considerably to the outcome and to the quality of the project.

HTC 10 Smartphone Has Dual OIS

HTC 10 smartphone has both 8MP front and 12MP rear cameras equipped with OIS, said to be the world's first. The rear camera is based on 1.55um UltraPixels, has F1.8 lens and DxO Mark score 88, same as Samsung Galaxy S7:

Monday, April 11, 2016

Emmanuel Lubezki on Invisage QuantumCinema

Invisage quotes a part of DPReview interview with Emmanuel Lubezki, who just received his third consecutive Oscar win for The Revenant this year:

DPR: You’ve worked with InVisage, the company behind QuantumFilm, and seem very enthusiastic about what that technology can do for filmmakers and photographers. Why?

EL: When InVisage approached me and showed me their sensor technology I got very, very excited. As people would say, it’s music to my ears. Actually, it’s music to my eyes what they are doing! What they’re attempting to do is everything I’ve been looking for, and that’s why I’m so excited to work with them.

The first thing I’m excited about is the high dynamic range of QuantumFilm, but the other thing that’s important is a camera that has a global shutter as opposed to a rolling shutter. That’s something that we suffered with a bit during Gravity. When you’re doing a lot of digital effects and stitching things together, not having global shutter can become a big issue, as you guys know.

Lytro Cinema Camera Features 755MP , up to 300fps Sensor

BusinessWire: Lytro introduces "Lytro Cinema, the world’s first Light Field solution for film and television."

Lytro Cinema defies traditional physics of on-set capture allowing filmmakers to capture shots that have been impossible up until now,” said Jon Karafin, Head of Light Field Video at Lytro. “Because of the rich data set and depth information, we’re able to virtualize creative camera controls, meaning that decisions that have traditionally been made on set, like focus position and depth of field, can now be made computationally. We’re on the cutting edge of what’s possible in film production.

With Lytro Cinema, every frame of a live action scene becomes a 3D model: every pixel has color and directional and depth properties. The camera features:
  • The highest resolution video sensor ever designed, 755 RAW megapixels at up to 300 FPS
  • Up to 16 stops of dynamic range and wide color gamut
  • Integrated high resolution active scanning
Lytro Cinema will be available for production in Q3 2016 to exclusive partners on a subscription basis.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

4T Pixel Noise Reduction in Photon Counting

Rambus' and Dartmouth College's Michael Guidash, Jiaju Ma, Thomas Vogelsang and Jay Endsley publish an open access paper "Reduction of CMOS Image Sensor Read Noise to Enable Photon Counting" in Sensors Vol 14, #4 issue. The paper talks about CDS timing shortening and SF bias current optimization to minimize 1/f, RTS, and thermal noise:

CDS timing is given in ns

Update: Another pixel noise reduction paper in the same Sensors journal issue is "Noise Reduction Techniques and Scaling Effects towards Photon Counting CMOS Image Sensors" by Assim Boukhayma, Arnaud Peizerat, and Christian Enz from EPFL and CEA-Leti. It covers mostly theoretical foundations of the pixel noise reduction.

Thanks to AT for the link!

Saturday, April 09, 2016

TSMC & Xintec

TSMC is to sell 5.1% ownership of Xintec. TSMC holds 10.2% of Xintec from its purchase of OmniVision's 49.1% ownership in VisEra Holding Cayman, Ltd. and 100% ownership in Taiwan OmniVision Investment Holding Co. Inc. (renamed as Chi Cherng Investment Co., Ltd.) on November 20, 2015. Of the above 10.2% Xintec ownership, 5.1% was sold on November 30, 2015. The remaining 5.1% announced to be sold now was released from the IPO lock-ups on March 30, 2016. After the Xintec shares sales, TSMC will remain as the largest shareholder of Xintec with approximately 41% ownership. TSMC announces that it has no plan to sell more Xintec shares in the foreseeable future.

TSMC expects to continue its close collaboration with Xintec in the areas of CMOS sensor, MEMS, and etc.

Samsung CIS Slides

Samsung Semi updated its last year's mobile products presentation talking about its recent CIS innovations and market shares:

Friday, April 08, 2016

Sharp Expands its Distance Measuring Sensors Lineup

Sharp updates its lineup of distance measuring sensors, now covering a range from 1.5cm to 5.5m:

Image Sensor Precautions

Sony publishes a 2016 edition of its Quality and Reliability Handbook. Its section 5.1 talks about precautions when dealing with image sensors:

  • Do not expose to ultraviolet rays, sunlight or other strong light for long periods. The transmittance and color characteristics of the on-chip lens and color filter may be affected.
  • Avoid storing or using products at a high temperature or high humidity, as this may adversely affect the transmittance or color characteristics.
  • The imaging characteristics may be affected by noise or other factors when strong electromagnetic waves or magnetic fields are approached during operation. Special care should be taken for CMOS image sensors as these are easily affected.
  • Note that the image of CMOS image sensors may be affected by light leaking to the optical black when using an infrared cut filter that has transmittance in the near infrared range while shooting subjects with high luminance.
  • Sony image sensor specifications do not assume use in environments with above-ordinary radiation levels.
  • White pixels occur spontaneously in image sensors over time and due to cosmic radiation. White pixels that occur should be compensated using a white pixel compensation circuit.

Graphene Stretching Controls its Photoresponse

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a new approach to modifying the light absorption and stretchability of atomically thin two-dimensional (2D) materials by surface topographic engineering using only mechanical strain.

"We achieved more than an order-of-magnitude enhancement of the optical extinction via the buckled 3D structure, which led to an approximately 400% enhancement in photoresponsivity,” stated Pilgyu Kang, a postdoctoral research associate and first author of the paper, “Crumpled Graphene Photodetector with Enhanced, Strain-tunable and Wavelength-selective Photoresponsivity,” appearing in the journal, Advanced Materials. “The new strain-tunable photoresponsivity resulted in a 100% modulation in photoresponsivity with a 200% applied strain. By integrating colloidal photonic crystal—a strain-tunable optomechanical filter—with the stretchable graphene photodetector, we also demonstrated a unique strain-tunable wavelength selectivity.

This work demonstrates a robust approach for stretchable and flexible graphene photodetector devices,” SungWoo Nam, an assistant professor of mechanical science and engineering added. “We are the first to report a stretchable photodetector with stretching capability to 200% of its original length and no limit on detection wavelength. Furthermore, our approach to enhancing photoabsorption by crumpled structures can be applied not only to graphene, but also to other emerging 2D materials.