Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Sony in Search for Killer Applications for its ToF Sensor

Sony publishes an interview with ist ToF application team members "Time-of-flight (ToF) image sensor for mobile phone applications revolutionizes mobile entertainment content with its capability to accurately capture not only figures and backgrounds, but also body gestures." Few quotes:

"While the contexts were steadily growing for leveraging the technology, there were no definite killer apps for it which people would put to everyday use. This situation resulted in a chicken or egg situation, that smartphone manufacturers were not keen to integrate ToF image sensors for the lack of killer apps while app developers had little incentive to develop apps for it because it was not adopted in many smartphones.

Given this situation, we thought that we should encourage the development of apps that leveraged ToF image sensors to incentivize both smartphone manufactures and app developers.

Sony Semiconductor Solutions Group (hereafter “the Group”) faced the challenge and sought for a solution in developing ground-breaking apps for the ToF image sensor for mobile applications. A large-scale project was launched, connecting teams in Japan and four Chinese cities—Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Chengdu. We asked what the project aimed to achieve and how the apps were created over the great distances.

There were also obstacles from the development point of view. Laser emission increases power consumption, and so does depth sensing and processing. For the smartphone manufacturers, it also means more space needed to accommodate the sensor. There are, of course, additional advantages ToF image sensors can bring, but these advantages did not add enough value to extend the scope of application to all smartphone models. This resulted in the current situation that the sensor is installed in some high-end models, but not in other, more popular ones.

That is true, but we have smartphone manufacturers who are interested in integrating the ToF image sensor if there are interesting apps to use it. This was our incentive to take up the challenge and develop apps in order to topple the first domino piece to establish and expand an app market for the sensor."

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