Thursday, March 22, 2018

Smartphone Companies Scrambling to Match Apple 3D Camera Performance and Cost

EETimes publishes an article "Can Huawei Match Apple TrueDepth?" by Junko Yoshida. Few quotes:

Pierre Cambou, activity leader for MEMS and imaging at Yole Développement, predicts that it may take a year or longer for competitors to offer 3D sensing technologies comparable to iPhone X.

...3D sensing will be a tougher challenge for most smartphone vendors — because a 3D camera contains myriad components that need to be aligned. It also requires competent supply chain management. Cambou called the 3D camera “a bundle of sub-devices.”

As for Samsung’s Galaxy S9, some reviewers are already calling its front-facing sensing technology “a disappointment.” ...People were able to fool Samsung's technology on last year's Galaxy S8 by using photos. Apparently, that trick still works with the S9.

Huawei’s triple cameras appear to illustrate the company’s effort to enhance depth-sensing technology. While no confirmation is available, Huawei’s suspected 3D sensing partner is Qualcomm.

SystemPlus' and Yole's cost estimation of iPhone X 3D camera

Reuters shares the same opinion:

Most Android phones will have to wait until 2019 to duplicate the 3D sensing feature behind Apple’s Face ID security, three major parts producers have told Reuters.

According to parts manufacturers Viavi Solutions Inc, Finisar Corp and Ams AG, bottlenecks on key parts will mean mass adoption of 3D sensing will not happen until next year, disappointing earlier expectations.

Tech research house Gartner predicts that by 2021, 40 percent of smartphones will be equipped with 3D cameras, which can also be used for so-called augmented reality.

Blackmore Raises $18M for Coherent LiDAR

PRNewswire: Bozeman, Montana-based Blackmore Sensors and Analytics Inc. has raised $18m in a Series B funding led by BMW i Ventures. Additional investment comes from Toyota AI Ventures, Millennium Technology Value Partners and Next Frontier Capital.

"Blackmore has unique and innovative FMCW lidar technology that delivers a new dimension of data to future vehicles," said BMW i Ventures partner Zach Barasz. In addition to being more cost-effective, Blackmore's FMCW lidar has several advantages over traditional pulsed lidar systems.

"Blackmore's groundbreaking FMCW lidar technology is designed to eliminate interference, improve long-range performance, and support both range and velocity — a triple threat to make autonomous driving safer," said Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures.

According to Randy Reibel, Blackmore's CEO, it is that last capability that differentiates Blackmore's sensor from its competitors. "Having the ability to measure both the speed and the distance to any object gives self-driving systems more information to navigate safely."

Blackmore will use the investment to scale the production of its FMCW lidar for ADAS and self-driving markets. Increased production capacity will allow Blackmore to support the growing sector of autonomous driving teams demanding a superior lidar solution.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

ToF Depth Resolution Improved to 6.5nm

OSA Optics Letters issue dated by April 1st, 2018 publishes Peking University, China, KAIST and KRISS, Korea paper "Time-of-flight detection of femtosecond laser pulses for precise measurement of large microelectronic step height."

"By using time-of-flight detection with fiber-loop optical-microwave phase detectors, precise measurement of large step height is realized. The proposed method shows uncertainties of 15 nm and 6.5 nm at sampling periods of 40 ms and 800 ms, respectively. This method employs only one free-running femtosecond mode-locked laser and requires no scanning of laser repetition rate, making it easier to operate. Precise measurements of 6 μm and 0.5 mm step heights have been demonstrated, which show good functionality of this method for measurement of step heights."

Google Reportedly Buys Lytro

Techcrunch sources report that Google is acquiring Lytro:

"One source described the deal as an “asset sale” with Lytro going for no more than $40 million. Another source said the price was even lower: $25 million. A third source tells us that not all employees are coming over with the company’s technology: some have already received severance and parted ways with the company, and others have simply left. Assets would presumably also include Lytro’s 59 patents related to light-field and other digital imaging technology.

The sale would be far from a big win for Lytro and its backers. The startup has raised just over $200 million in funding and was valued at around $360 million after its last round in 2017. Its long list of investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Foxconn, GV, Greylock, NEA, Qualcomm Ventures and many more.

Here is NYTimes illustration of Lytro's first product back in 2012:

Samsung Foundry CIS Offerings

Samsung publishes its CIS process features available at 8-inch foundry:

Currently, all 8-inch foundry wafers are processed at Line 6 in Giheung campus, Korea:

Recent Progress of Visible Light Image Sensors

CERN publishes Nobukazu Teranishi's 58 page-large presentation "Recent Progresses of Visible Light Image Sensors" at the Detector Seminar at CERN on February 23, 2018. There is a lot of interesting slides, including spares in the end. Here is just a small part of the content:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Nikkei Reviews Sony Paper at ISSCC

Nikkei publishes a 4-part review of Sony ISSCC 2018 presentation on event-driven sensor:

ST Talk about Dirty Glass in ToF Imaging

ST video presents issues with dirty cover glass in ToF devices, followed by a sort of obvious solution:

Monday, March 19, 2018

Up-Conversion Device to Give 1550nm Sensitivity to CMOS Sensors

Nocamels, The Times of Israel: Gabby Sarusi from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev "has developed a stamp-like device of which one side reads 1,500-nanometer infrared wavelengths, and converts them to images that are visible to the human eye on the other side of the stamp. This stamp — basically a film that is half a micron in thickness — is composed of nano-metric layers, nano-columns and metal foil, which transform infrared images into visible images.

An infrared sensor costs around $3,000, Sarusi said. A regular vision sensor used by autonomous cars costs $1-$2. So, by adding the nanotech layers, which cost around $5, Sarusi said, one can get an infrared sensor for about $7-$8.

Thanks to DS for the pointer!

Omnivision Nyxel Technology Wins Smart Products Leadership Award

Frost & Sullivan’s Manufacturing Leadership Council prizes Omnivision by Smart Products and Services Leadership Award for Nyxel NIR imaging technology.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

SF Current and RTN

Japanese Journal of Applied Physics publishes Tohoku University paper "Effect of drain current on appearance probability and amplitude of random telegraph noise in low-noise CMOS image sensors" by Shinya Ichino, Takezo Mawaki, Akinobu Teramoto, Rihito Kuroda, Hyeonwoo Park, Shunichi Wakashima, Tetsuya Goto, Tomoyuki Suwa, and Shigetoshi Sugawa. It turns out that lower SF current can reduce RTN, at least for 0.18um process used in the test chip:

Saturday, March 17, 2018

ST Announces 4m Range ToF Sensor

The VL53L1X TOF sensor extends the detection range of ST's FlightSense technology to four meters, bringing high-accuracy, low-power distance measurement, and proximity detection to an even wider variety of applications. The fully integrated VL53L1X measures only 4.9mm x 2.5mm x 1.56mm, allowing use even where space is very limited. It is also pin-compatible with its predecessor, the VL53L0X, allowing easy upgrading of existing products. The compact package contains the laser driver and emitter as well as SPAD array light receiver that gives ST’s FlightSense sensors their ranging speed and reliability. Furthermore, the 940nm emitter, operating in the non-visible spectrum, eliminates distracting light emission and can be hidden behind a protective window without impairing measurement performance.

ST publishes quite a detailed datasheet with the performance data:

GM 4th Gen Self-Driving Car Roof Module

GM has started production of a roof rack for its fourth generation Cruise AV featuring 5 Velodyne LiDARs and, at least, 7 cameras:

Friday, March 16, 2018

MEMSDrive OIS Technology Presentation

MEMSDrive kindly sent me a presentation on its OIS technology:

Pictures from Image Sensors Europe 2018

Few assorted pictures from Image Sensors Europe conference being held these days in London, UK.

From Ron (Vision Markets) twitter:

Image Sensors twitter:

From X-Fab presentation:

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rumor: Mantis Vision 3D Camera to Appear in Samsung Galaxy S10 Phone

Korean newspaper The Investor quotes local media reports that Mantis Vision and camera module maker Namuga are developing 3-D sensing camera for Samsung next-generation Galaxy S smartphones, tentatively called the Galaxy S10. Namuga is also providing 3-D sensing modules for Intel’s RealSense AR cameras.

TechInsights: Samsung Galaxy S9+ Cameras Cost 12.7% of BOM

TechInsights Samsung Galaxy S9+ cost table estimates cameras cost at $48 out of $379 total. The previous generation S8 camera was estimated at $25.50 or 7.8% of the total BOM.

TechInsights publishes a cost comparison of this year and last yera;s flagship phones. Galaxy S9+ appears to have the largest investment in camera and imaging hardware: