Friday, July 03, 2015

Press Covering Invisage QFAB3 Inauguration

Invisage publishes an impressively big list of newspaper articles covering the opening of its QFAB3 in Taiwan last month. The article that has attracted my attention is a Chinese site 52RD interview with Jess Lee, Invisage CEO. Few quotes, in Bing translation:

"Compared to CMOS, quantum films have a very big advantage, is very thin. Jess said, quantum well thin film sensor modules can do 4mm, and minimum can only do 4.8mm CMOS sensor module, though only the 0.8mm gap, but used on cell phone cameras and wearable devices, will be a big change, maybe your next-generation iPhone camera will not be highlighted."

"The Taiwan new factories are small, but the plant can support 10% market. Production processes are TSMC's wafers first, then we will spread the quantum film, then to partners to test, then made modules. This process and the traditional CMOS is the same, just adding the cover of quantum film, a step, so quantum thin film sensor camera performance can be increased 5 times."

"At present, we only produce a small number of wafer and will ramp up in the second half of this year. ...our first samples had been provided to a number of important customers, they have done tests and gave very positive feedback, later this year we will have more samples available to more customers. Over time, our formal product launches will be held in Shanghai, and after product formal release, we will provide samples for Mainland, 7 August should be, we can look forward to you."

"InVisage will focus on cell phone cameras, this is a very large market and opportunities. Smartphone carrying quantum thin-film technologies are expected to be listed in 1 year."

"...we have no competitors or partners before, but last year we held out olive branches of the two companies, Sony is one of their quantum is very interested in thin film technology."

"As shown in the image above, Orange represents QuantumFilm absorption capacity, gray are Silicon absorbs light, you can see the gap between the two great. The biggest advantage is that absorption capacity can increase the dynamic range of the camera, dynamic range represents the phone can take a much brighter white and dark black, best embodies quality and filmed under strong light at night. Low light performance is the greatest weakness of the CMOS sensor and mobile phones cannot be one of the main reasons that night."

The interview concludes with a comparison picture with the regular CMOS sensors on the left and Invisage QuantumFilm device on the right. The first row compares full well, I guess, (4000e- vs 12,000e-), the second row is a camera module z-height (5mm vs 4mm), the third row shows the absense of rolling shutter distortions in QF sensors.

Melexis Launches ToF Evaluation Kit

Melexis new EVK75023 evaluation kit is based on its MLX75023 QVGA ToF sensor with Softkinetic's DepthSense pixels and is co-developed with BlueTechnix.

By using Melexis’ automotive-grade ToF offering, automobile engineering teams will be able to deploy HMIs which are robust enough to deal with difficult working environments, where they are exposed to dramatic alterations in light levels, while still hitting the necessary price points to ensure economic viability,", states Kristof Lieben, Application Engineer for ToF Systems at Melexis. “The addition of this new evaluation kit, gives engineers the functionality needed to make an initial appraisal of the design set up, so that it can be optimized for the particular surroundings.

Weekly Patent Review

Sony patent application US20150179693 "Solid-state image sensor, method of producing the same, and electronic apparatus" by Shunsuke Maruyama proposes to move PD into a top laminated layer 47, so that the pixel transistors can be located underneath it. While application talks about 6T global shutter pixel, it's not clear how the transfer gates 22 and 29 are formed in the laminated PD layer 47:

Omnivision patent application US20150179695 "Image sensor pixel for high dynamic range image sensor" by Jeong-ho Lyu and Sohei Manabe proposing the way to have two types of pixels with different light sensitivity while keeping the pixel optics more-less same:

Another Omnivision patent application US20150181187 "Color and Infrared Filter Array Patterns to Reduce Color Aliasing" by Donghui Wu and Ping-Hsu Chen proposes many different patterns, so that one can expect many continuation patents to follow. Here is just one example:

Thursday, July 02, 2015

IISW 2015 Review: Boosting the Conversion Gain

Albert Theuwissen continues is review of IISW 2015 presentations. The latest part talks about Tohoku University, Dartmouth School of Engineering, CEA, Caeleste and ON Semi work on increasing the CG all the way up to 400uV/e- (Caeleste in 0.18um process).

Harvest Imaging ToF Forum Update

Albert Theuwissen updates that very few seats remain available on 3D Imaging ToF Forum to be held in Dec. 2015.

MIT Researchers Propose Quantum Dot Spectrometer

MIT researchers Jie Bao and Moungi G. Bawendi published "A colloidal quantum dot spectrometer" paper in Nature journal. "The new quantum dot spectrometer deploys hundreds of quantum dot materials that each filter a specific set of wavelengths of light. The quantum dot filters are printed into a thin film and placed on top of a photodetector such as the charge-coupled devices (CCDs) found in cellphone cameras." Potentially, a fairly accurate spectrometer can be cheaply created in a compact form.

Here is a example of filters made with this method:

and here is the doublet peaks resolution of the proposed quantum dot spectrometer on the right vs HR2000 spectrometer as a reference on the left:

Sony Establishes Crowdfunding Platform for its Employees

Sony Seed Acceleration Program, which seeks to fast-track promising new business ideas proposed by Sony employees into full-fledged businesses, unveils "First Flight." First Flight is a new online platform providing an suite of services from crowdfunding to e-commerce in Japan. Kazuo Hirai, Sony President and CEO, says: "Sony's innovation is ingrained in the company's founding spirit of `doing what has never been done before.' Nothing embodies this spirit more than passionate entrepreneurs who give shape to their ground-breaking ideas and introduce them to the world, without fear of failure. The First Flight platform and other Seed Acceleration Program initiatives accelerate and optimize this process. Sony itself originated as a start-up, and through the Seed Acceleration Program we are challenging ourselves to return to our entrepreneurial roots. At Sony we will continue to explore ways of delivering new, emotionally compelling experiences and enhanced customer value."

The fist three projects on the new site are not related to imaging. I wonder if we ever see image sensor crowdfunding projects proposed by Sony employees from image sensor division.

Toshiba Explains PDAF Operation

Toshiba publishes a nice Youtube video explaining how PDAF works:

Ambarella Acquires Automotive Vision Systems Developer Vislab

GlobeNewsWire: Ambarella acquires VisLab S.r.l., a privately held Italian company based in Parma, Italy for $30M in cash. VisLab, the Vision and Intelligent Systems Laboratory at the University of Parma, develops perception systems for autonomous vehicles and was founded by Prof. Alberto Broggi. The company has developed computer vision and intelligent control systems for automotive and other commercial applications, including ADAS and several generations of autonomous vehicle driving systems. These include "Porter," an autonomous vehicle that made a 13,000 km autonomous trip from Italy to China in 2010.

"Computer vision is an area of significant focus for Ambarella, and will be critical to our current video markets, as well as future markets such as automotive OEM cameras," said Fermi Wang, CEO of Ambarella. "We are delighted to welcome Dr. Broggi and the VisLab team to Ambarella to jointly define, develop and deploy future generations of computer vision solutions."

"The unique combination of VisLab's computer vision expertise and Ambarella's high performance, power-efficient video processing technology will enable extremely powerful systems," said Broggi. "We are very pleased to join Ambarella and to realize the full potential of our research and algorithms across a wide range of customers' products."

VisLab's 27 researchers will join Ambarella's advanced computer vision development team, working computer vision for future solutions targeting Ambarella's core markets including automotive, IP security, wearable, and flying cameras.

A Youtube video shows Vislab's driverless car test:

Here is Vislab's hardware inside the driverless car:

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

TI Publishes Softkinetic ToF Chips Datasheets

TI publishes fairly detailed datasheets of Softkinetic QVGA OPT8241 ToF sensor and OPT9221 controller chip.

Correction: I have been told that the "chips are based on Softkinetic pixel technology. The chips are made in TI and most of the tech in them belongs to TI."