Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Sony's new SPAD-based dToF Sensor IMX611

Sony Semiconductor Solutions to Release SPAD Depth Sensor for Smartphones with High-Accuracy, Low-Power Distance Measurement Performance, Powered by the Industry’s Highest*1 Photon Detection Efficiency

Atsugi, Japan — Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation (SSS) today announced the upcoming release of the IMX611, a direct time-of-flight (dToF) SPAD depth sensor for smartphones that delivers the industry’s highest*1 photon detection efficiency.

The IMX611 has a photon detection efficiency of 28%, the highest in the industry,*1 thanks to its proprietary single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) pixel structure.*2 This reduces the power consumption of the entire system while enabling high-accuracy measurement of the distance of an object.

This new sensor will generate opportunities to create new value in smartphones, including functions and applications that utilize distance information.

In general, SPAD pixels are used as a type of detector in a dToF sensor, which acquire distance information by detecting the time of flight of light emitted from a source until it returns to the sensor after being reflected off an object.

The IMX611 uses a proprietary SPAD pixel structure that gives the sensor the industry’s highest*1 photon detection efficiency, at 28%, which makes it possible to detect even very weak photons that have been emitted from the light source and reflected off the object. This allows for highly accurate measurement of object distance. It also means the sensor can offer high distance-measurement performance even with lower light source laser output, thereby helping to reduce the power consumption of the whole smartphone system.

This sensor can accurately measure the distance to an object, making it possible to improve autofocus performance in low-light environments with poor visibility, to apply a bokeh effect to the subject’s background, and to seamlessly switch between wide-angle and telephoto cameras. All of these capabilities will improve the user experience of smartphone cameras. This sensor also enables 3D spatial recognition, AR occlusion,*4 motion capture/gesture recognition, and other such functions. With the spread of the metaverse in the future, this sensor will contribute to the functional evolution of VR head mounted displays and AR glasses, which are expected to see increasing demand.

By incorporating a proprietary signal processing function into the logic chip inside the sensor, the RAW information acquired from the SPAD pixels is converted into distance information to output, and all this is done within the sensor. This approach makes it possible to reduce the load of post-processing, thereby simplifying overall system development.


  1. What are "effective pixels" and how are they calculated?

  2. Effective pixels mean the array of pixels that actually contribute to the image output. They exclude dummy pixels (for process uniformity) surrounding the effective pixels, and optical black pixels (for 0th-order cancellation of dark current induced offset and its temperature variation).


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