Thursday, January 06, 2022

Q&A with Eric Fossum

Dartmouth publishes "Q&A with engineering professor and Technology and Engineering Emmy winner Eric Fossum." Few quotes:

"The winners of the Emmy awards that were announced were me as the primary inventor, as well as Kodak. I was also very happy that we were able to get some extra trophies for some of my other team members of PhotoBit.

Now we have moved on to a new technology at Dartmouth and my research lab, which is an even more sensitive camera chip called a quanta image sensor.

It counts individual photons of light one at a time. I started it probably about five years ago, when we were doing a lot of research. But then my Ph.D. students and I co-founded a startup company out of Dartmouth called GigaJot, which is now operating in southern California. So now we’re again trying to commercialize that technology, and maybe it’ll make it to your smartphone someday. We’ll see.

Our photon counting sensor clock and image sensor still have their own limitations. I’m trying to understand the semiconductor device physics behind the background noise in these devices because it limits the perfection of the sensitivity. So I want to understand what those limits are all about. It’s really pushing the forefront."

22 comments:

  1. The Dartmouth is a student paper (the oldest college newspaper in the US, they say), and I wonder if the student reporter who interviewed me used some transcription software to create the article. There are many typos and a few wrong words. For example, there is no "clock."
    Not a new thought, but Photobit would have been a good name for a 1bQIS chip company.

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  2. Congratulations

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  3. I always wonder why only Eric Fossum gets almost all the credits for CIS and not other co-inventors (Sabrina Kemeny for example) and other 3 or 4 co-founders of Photobit never get any attention? I'm a younger CIS follower and would like to know from the more experienced and seniors here.

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    1. You are right my friend. It is more about self promotion. Here how it works: You or your friends nominate you for an award. You get accepted. From here you build on that carefully, get nominated for NAI, NIHF and more. Now your name is everywhere. No one remember what happened 20 years ago. They just Google and your name pops up. You get more awards. It is not fair, but it is the game.

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    2. So, what is the way to differentiate between the real inventor and self-promotion?

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    3. The major inventions are like sun, very clear. The inventor does not need to go every where with it to emphasis "I invented it" or "it is my technology". Eric Fossum, in the best consideration, improved the CIS. APS is from Peter Noble and PPD is from Teranishi (most important invention in image sensors, period.). Adjusting CIS slightly does not mean you invented CIS. Maybe it is American media propaganda to promote an American, but it feels it is more self promotion of an ok improvement (not major invention). Credit should go to all the co-inventors and the big group of scientists and engineers at JPL (you do not see their names even in the papers in 90s, it is just Eric Fossum and sometimes a few more names, everyone knows it is team work, give the credit to all team members).

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    4. Well, I'm not sure that "The major inventions are like sun, very clear." Looking at the Nobel Prize history, almost every year it ends up with arguments and claims that the Prize went to wrong person.

      There are also different claims about PPD invention and, probably, about any other useful invention in the human history. Everybody wants to be a part of success...

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    5. It was more like 30 years ago than 20 years ago. The paper "Camera-on-a-Chip: Technology Transfer From Saturn to Your Cell Phone," published in 2013 contains a lot of details which may help some of you that were not active in image sensors 30 years ago. You can find it at http://dx.doi.org/10.3727/194982413X13790020921744 or t http://ericfossum.com/Publications/Papers/2013%20NAI%20Tech%20Transfer%20from%20Saturn%20to%20Cell%20Phone.pdf

      I guess it is a sign of the ubiquitous nature of the CIS (or, CMOS active pixel image sensor with intra-pixel charge transfer) that everything becomes obvious once something is so well used. I remember an earlier discussion when younger engineers claimed putting an ADC on the image sensor was obvious. 30 years ago even that was far from obvious.
      Anyway, as I have often said, the invention took the best of from APS and CCD and combined them in a way that was not obvious at that time and it had a very rocky and difficult start. It was definitely not accepted by the image sensor community at first, and it took years and a killer app to make it become today's technology of choice. I am always the first to say that the modern CIS is the result of years of effort from thousands of engineers around the globe.

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    6. You are one of the "Co-inventors" and one of the "Co-developers". Even on the patents there are several other names. Just saying you thank 1000 of engineers does not cut it. This is self promotion, and no one likes it. And the invention is not inventor of CIS, it is improvement of CIS.

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    7. When Lisa Su gets many different awards and medals, does it mean that she is the only person responsible for AMD magical turnaround? Probably not. The awards are given to the leaders, even though it might look unfair to many.

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    8. @Anonymous troll. Just shaking my head and slapping my forehead.

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  4. I see another missing thing, which is that the Emmy also went to ON Semi due to the Photobit->Micron->Aptina->ON legacy. I know I said ON Semi to the student reporter along with Kodak but I don't know why it disappeared from the article. Maybe she did not realize it was the name of a company? Ross Jatou at ON Semi has been very supportive, which I greatly appreciate.

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    1. Or was it the fillfactory > Cypress > onsemi legacy and the collaboration with ARRI which led to the adoption of CMOS in cinematography?

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    2. This Emmi is for "intra-pixel charge transfer." Was Fillfactory first to develop or invent it?

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    3. Who used products - common man. Who made money - its product development company. An affordable, and useful technology is loved by market. However, in this entire race if technology which develops years ahead of products, gets credit along with its inventor, its wonderful. By the way, everyone in the entire product development chain is paid for what they perform. So credits are already sold. Only things that last are products which get used, rest everything keeps changing.

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    4. Photobit had great engineers but top level management was inexperienced and weak. Could be very successful.

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    5. Interesting. So, if you were Photobit CEO, what would you do differently?

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    6. Less family dramas and fights between chairman and other c level executives and be laser focus on the success of company.

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    7. "be laser focus on the success of company" - sorry, this is too generic saying. Probably copied from the popular management books. Anything more specific?

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    8. @Anonymous 6:03AM and 10:34AM. You clearly are misinformed. Inexperienced at the start - true, as for most startups. But Photobit-founders management, 20 years after the sale of the company remain quite friendly, along with nearly all of the company team. Ironically, the major drama for Photobit happened when we brought in a highly experienced CEO to take Photobit to the next level. That turned out to be a major fail for a few months and required regrouping after that short-lived experience. We also learned a lot from that CEO too, I have to say. Your troll-like behavior, which is to create an anonymous turd of false information, wrap it in a veil of half-truths and deposit it in a public place, is hopefully seen by all for what it is: classic disinformation.

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  5. Great engineers are across the globe with few global companies managing them. Ofcourse, this is what will happen to a global product which cannot be managed just in one country or one continent. Best Products remain, human resources change. Engineers, companies carry experience yielding better next product. Cycle of improvement ever stops, complexity increases bit by bit. :) Photobit CEO or XYZ CEO - We have all evolved and hopefully better versions of our past self..

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  6. Main purpose of this post (and similar ones that are often reported) is to let the community know how people in imaging are internationally recognized. Then it's a personal opinion if this information is interesting or not. However, it has to be noticed they often trigger long debates even though they have no technical content. In the interest of this blog, we should all prefer to address comments and active discussion more towards technical posts (which often get zero comments).

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