Friday, June 23, 2017

Light Talks about L16 Camera Complexity while Gearing up for Mass Production

Light Co. is gearing up for mass production of the L16 multi-camera. There are more than 3,000 different parts in the L16 camera, which are supplied from at least six different countries around the world. Once they arrive at our factory in China, it takes 60 sets of hands to assemble each camera. Our manufacturing team follows an extensive 79-step process—and that doesn’t even include the 13 times we check each camera’s functionality.

The company is preparing to start shipping cameras to pre-order customers on July 14th, 2017, less than a month from now.

The company's video explains the camera design complexity:

Tesla Autopilot Management Changes

Techcrunch: Tesla gets rid of Apple Swift language manager Chris Lattner who was brought to the company 6 months ago to lead the autonomous driving division. The company says:

"Chris just wasn’t the right fit for Tesla, and we’ve decided to make a change. We wish him the best.

Andrej Karpathy, one of the world’s leading experts in computer vision and deep learning, is joining Tesla as Director of AI and Autopilot Vision, reporting directly to Elon Musk. Andrej has worked to give computers vision through his work on ImageNet, as well as imagination through the development of generative models, and the ability to navigate the internet with reinforcement learning. He was most recently a Research Scientist at OpenAI.

Andrej will work closely with Jim Keller, who now has overall responsibility for Autopilot hardware and software.

Dual Camera Patent Wars Looming?

Digitimes reports that Taiwan-based camera module Altek is suing Shenzhen O-film Tech, and Beijing Jingdong Century Information Technology, a sales agent in the China market, in the Beijing Intellectual Property Court for infringement of its dual camera module patent.

The dual-lens module, supplied by Shenzhen O-film, used in the Hong-mi Pro smartphone launched by China-based Xiaomi infringes upon its patent, Altek alleges. Beijing Jingdong acts as the China sales agent for the smartphone.

Altek was first to unveil smartphone dual-lens camera module in 2014 and is said to supply its dual camera modules for more than 30 smartphone models by HTC, Huawei, ZTE, Coolpad, Nubia, GiONEE and Smartisan.

InstantFlashNews reports that the patent depicts a camera module with its optical axes adjusted to provide different photography effects. As this dual camera module is manufactured by O-Film, and is selling the handset, Xiaomi is not being sued for now.

Analog Devices Demos HDR & Contextual Awareness

Analog Devices posts another demo video showing the capabilities of its SNAP sensor:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thesis on Open-Source Eye Tracking Database

Presenting PhD thesis for discussion a week before the defense seems to become a new trend in Finland. University of Eastern Finland presents PhD Thesis by Ana Gebejes entitled "Spectral video: application in human eye analysis and tracking" to be defended on June 30, 2017.

Using a 450nm-950nm spectral video device in eye-tracking, the researchers from the University of Eastern Finland have created a novel – first of its kind – combined spectral video/spectral image database: the SPectral Eye vidEo Database, SPEED.

A Youtube video explains the database creation work:

Caltech Presents OPA Camera

Caltech Professor Ali Hajimiri with graduate students present Optical Phase Array (OPA)-based camera: "What the camera does is similar to looking through a thin straw and scanning it across the field of view. We can form an image at an incredibly fast speed by manipulating the light instead of moving a mechanical object." Their OSA paper "An 8x8 Heterodyne Lens-less OPA Camera" explains the principle:

The OPA chip placed on a penny for scale.

2016 Gartner Image Sensor Report

InstantFlashNews publishes August 2016 Gartner report on image sensor market. A few quotes from the report:

Key Findings:
  • The growth in the biggest market for CMOS image sensors — smartphones — is ebbing. Leading suppliers are focusing on new markets, such as automotive, industrial and wearables, to drive revenue growth.
  • Capturing share in new markets requires new camera technologies, such as 3D cameras, dual cameras, software technologies, and algorithms for image processing and recognition.
  • New safety regulations for automobiles are emerging across key markets, such as North America, Europe, Japan and China. Compliance with these regulations will demand increased use of image sensors in a variety of automobile electronic equipment over the next three years.

CMOS image sensor product managers must:
  • Focus on developing specific products targeting new markets, such as industrial, automotive and wearable devices, and allocate resources to gain share quickly in these markets.
  • Develop computational camera software technologies and algorithms, such as high-speed processing, image recognition (face or object) and AI technologies, which will be adopted into, for example, the smartphone, automotive and industrial markets. And they should integrate them into one chip or a single package.
  • Consider acquiring packaging, lens and camera module suppliers and IP companies (image signal processors, connectivity, memory and artificial intelligence) to provide a complete product to the end customer.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

TechInsights Survey of Stacked Image Sensors

TechInsights publishes a second blog post based on Ray Fontaine presentation at IISW 2017. This part covers stacked image sensor technology from TSV and oxide bonding to Cu-to-Cu direct bonding in the recent products:

IISW 2017 Awards

IISW 2017 held on May 30-June 2 in Hiroshima, Japan has announced a number of Awards:

2017 Walter Kosonocky Award for the best paper published in 2015-16 goes to

A 0.13 μm CMOS System-on-Chip for a 512 × 424 Time-of-Flight Image Sensor With Multi-Frequency Photo-Demodulation up to 130 MHz and 2 GS/s ADC
Cyrus S. Bamji, Patrick O’Connor, Tamer Elkhatib, Swati Mehta, Barry Thompson, Lawrence A. Prather, Dane Snow, Onur Can Akkaya, Andy Daniel, Andrew D. Payne, Travis Perry, Mike Fenton, and Vei-Han Chan
Microsoft, USA, IEEE JSSC, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 303-318, January 2015

Pioneering Achievement Award for Contribution to R&D and commercialization of high-performance and high-resolution CCD image sensors is presented to Tetsuo Yamada:

Exceptional Lifetime Achievement Award Significant Contributions to the Advancement of Solid-State Image Sensors Including the Development Of On-chip Microlens Technology and VOD Structures for anti-blooming is presented to Yasuo Ishihara:

The Best Poster Award goes to:

Fully Depleted, Monolithic Pinned Photodiode CMOS Image Sensor Using Reverse Substrate Bias
Konstantin D. Stefanov, Andrew S. Clarke, James Ivory and Andrew D. Holland. The Open University, UK

Thanks to JN for the docs!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sony Enhances IR Sensitivity by 80% with Pyramidal Structure

Sony publishes an open access paper in Nature Journal "IR sensitivity enhancement of CMOS Image Sensor with diffractive light trapping pixels" by Sozo Yokogawa, Itaru Oshiyama, Harumi Ikeda, Yoshiki Ebiko, Tomoyuki Hirano, Suguru Saito, Takashi Oinoue, Yoshiya Hagimoto & Hayato Iwamoto. From the abstract:

"We report on the IR sensitivity enhancement of back-illuminated CMOS Image Sensor (BI-CIS) with 2-dimensional diffractive inverted pyramid array structure (IPA) on crystalline silicon (c-Si) and deep trench isolation (DTI)... A prototype BI-CIS sample with pixel size of 1.2 μm square containing 400 nm pitch IPAs shows 80% sensitivity enhancement at λ = 850 nm compared to the reference sample with flat surface. This is due to diffraction with the IPA and total reflection at the pixel boundary."

The papers's conclusion:

"A novel BI-CIS with IPA on c-Si surface for light trapping pixel technology is proposed and the prototyping results are demonstrated. Both spectroscopic measurements and demo images show considerable NIR sensitivity enhancement with small spatial resolution degradation. BI-CIS with 400 nm pitch IPA surface and DTI shows 80% improvement in sensitivity, which corresponds to QE of more than 30% at 850 nm for a 3 μm thick c-Si photodetector. Furthermore, it is worth noting that there is still a lot of room for improvement toward the fundamental limit of 4n^2. Additionally, it is important to control surface passivation to minimize the degradation of thermal noise and also further improve pixel isolation to reduce lateral color crosstalk as small as possible."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Intel RealSense CTO Presentation

Augmented World Expo (AWE) publishes a presentation by Intel RealSense group CTO, Anders Grunnet Jepsen:

One of the new RealSense depth cameras

Thanks to ZR for the link!

Samsung CIS Business Update

Samsung Investor Presentation gives interesting details on the company CIS business progress.

The market share data shows the business expansion:

Samsung uses 28nm CIS process, while Sony extends 65nm process life:

Automotive and mobile are high-priority applications:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Plasmonic Filters Found in Mass Produced Device

SystemPlus reverse engineering of NanoLambda NSP32-V1 spectrometer discovers plasmonic filters inside:

"The NSP32-V1 spectrometer uses a 1024 pixel, 32 x 32, nano-optical filter array to measure the light spectrum, based on a technological breakthrough, the plasmonic filter. This is a metal film perforated with subwavelength hole arrays. It is manufactured within the metal layer of the silicon die, giving a monolithic solution.

The 100μm-high sensor die is assembled in an advanced ball grid array (BGA) package with an optical window for only 500μm height. The other optical parts, the lens and the diffuser, are assembled in a 5.7mm-high module. The module is very small overall, at just 6mm x 6mm x 5.3mm.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

High-Speed Low-Noise Column ADC Architectures Thesis

Shizuoka University, Japan, publishes PhD Thesis "A Study on High-Speed Low-Noise Readout Architectures and Column A/D Converters for CMOS Image Sensors" by Tongxi Wang. The thesis starts with a nice overview of the readout and column-parallel ADC concepts:

A Hybrid Tri-Stage-Pipeline Column ADC (TSP) architecture is proposed to achieve the better trade-offs (implemented in 65nm process):

Another proposal is Folding-Integration/Cyclic Cascaded ADC (FICC) (implemented in 110nm process):

Friday, June 16, 2017

KAIST “K-Eye” Recognizes Faces

KAIST research team led by Prof. Hoi-Jun Yoo developes CNNP chip (CNN Processor), that runs AI algorithms with ultra-low power, and K-Eye, a face recognition system using CNNP. The system was made in collaboration with a start-up company, UX Factory.

The “Always-on” image sensor, can determine if there is a face in its camera range. Then, it can capture frames and set the device to operate only when a face exists, reducing the standby power significantly. CNNP achieved 97% face recognition accuracy while consuming only 0.62mW of power. Both chips were developed by Kyeongryeol Bong, a PhD student under Prof. Yoo and presented at ISSCC in February.

A Youtube video demos the K-Eye operation:

EurekaAlert also publishes a die photo:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

TechInsights Surveys PDAF Technologies

TechInsights starts a new blog post series "A Survey of Enabling Technologies in Successful Consumer Digital Imaging Products" based on Ray Fontaine's presentation at IISW 2017. Part 1 talks about PDAF technologies and is very insightful:

Technavio: Inspection Camera Market is Mostly UV

BusinessWire: Technavio report on automatic production inspection camera market forecasts the market size to reach $1,436.46 million by 2021, at a CAGR of nearly 10%. The largest part of the market is UV cameras:

Presto Sees $500M Opprotunity in CIS Production Management

BusinessWire: Presto Engineering, an outsourced operations provider to semiconductor device manufacturers, now offers a turnkey industrialization service for image sensors.

Larger-volume CIS vendors typically keep their manufacturing operations in-house. However, a fragmented market at medium volumes, perhaps as large as $500M aggregated across all segments, provides significant opportunities for fabless CIS companies who can benefit greatly from outsourced test and characterization solutions.

Presto’s IP750Ex test solution provides a large (80x100mm), uniform (+/-2%), high-intensity illumination field at a range of temperatures. Its highly parallel test capability for complex devices (as large as 32M pixels at speeds up to 200MHz) enables fast ramps without compromising cost-of-test. Its extension into IR and its ability to test 12-, 8- and 6-inch wafers across the full automotive temperature range (-40°C to +150°C) qualifies it uniquely for automotive vision integrated circuits (ICs).

Philippe Rommeveaux, CEO of France-based Pyxalis states, “Pyxalis is very excited to use Presto Engineering and its state-of-the-art imaging platform to test custom image sensors. Local support and interaction make this solution very efficient.

Presto Engineering provides outsourced operations from wafer procurement through final product shipment, and much more. The image sensor program and cleanroom facility are located in Meyreuil, France, near Aix-en-Provence.

Melexis Integrates ToF System onto 2 Chips

Melexis new ToF chipset includes the MLX75023 1/3-inch ToF sensor and the MLX75123 companion IC that embeds many of the external components normally required to develop a 3D vision solution. With this high level of integration, designers no longer need external FPGAs and ADCs thereby reducing size, design cost, product cost and time-to-market.

The MLX75023 ToF sensor is said to offer the world’s smallest pixel at QVGA resolution with 63 dB linear DR and sunlight robustness, thanks to Melexis' advanced pixel technology (15um Softkinetic pixels, that is). The MLX75123 companion chip directly interfaces the sensor IC to a host MCU and provides rapid readout of data from the sensor.

Gaetan Koers, Product Manager for Melexis commented: “We are very excited about the possibilities the launch of this chipset unleashes. The simplicity that it brings to the design process will ensure that more applications will be able to benefit from 3D TOF vision. In this fast-moving technology sector the in-built future proofing will mean that our customers will be able to remain at the leading edge for years to come.

Melexis opens a Youtube channel devoted to its new ToF platform:

Sofradir Designs Large Format MCT Imager for ESA

ALA News: Sofradir designs its first supersize 4MP SWIR sensor with 15um pitch for ESA space observation programs. The ALFA 2Kx2K (Astronomy Large Focal Array) 15µm pitch SWIR detector is said to provide the highest levels of performance in QE, dark current and noise in order to optimize IR observations for astrophysicists. The SWIR detector is based on a compound semiconductor material, mercury cadmium telluride (HgCdTe)and includes a readout circuit (ROIC) with a source follower per detector (SFD) at the input stage.

CIS History

Semiconductor Engineering publishes "CMOS Image Sensors (CIS): Past, Present & Future" article by Sofiane Guissi, staff engineer at Coventor. Among other historical comparisons and tables, there is one from talking about CIS stacking timeline, not including Sony 2017 3-layer CIS mass production milestone:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Camera-Radar Fusion

TI publishes a nice video showing a fusion between so different views from an automotive radar and a camera:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Omnivision 1/36-inch Sensor Pictures

Omnivision kindly sent me few pictures showing how small the new 1/36-inch OV6948 image sensor is: