Monday, January 16, 2017

Oscar-Winning Image Sensors

Oscars.org: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces its scientific and technical awards. Among them, two are image sensor related: RED for upgradeable image sensor, and Sony CineAlta F65 for high performance and unique color pattern.

  • To RED Digital Cinema for the pioneering design and evolution of the RED Epic digital cinema cameras with upgradeable full-frame image sensors.

    RED’s revolutionary design and innovative manufacturing process have helped facilitate the wide adoption of digital image capture in the motion picture industry.
  • To Sony for the development of the F65 CineAlta camera with its pioneering high-resolution imaging sensor, excellent dynamic range, and full 4K output.

    Sony’s unique photosite orientation and true RAW recording deliver exceptional image quality.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Reportedly, Altasens Closed Down

As written in comments to Altasens news post, apparently, the company has been closed down on Friday, the 13th of January, 2017.

From Altasens web site, still active for now:

"AltaSens is a wholly owned subsidiary of JVC KENWOOD Corporation.

The company was originally founded in 2004 as a fabless global supplier of imaging sensors. Our earliest roots trace back to our original formation as the CMOS Imaging Sensors Group within the Rockwell Scientific Company in 2000.

AltaSens spun off from Rockwell in 2004, at the precise time to make its mark in the nascent HD broadcasting market, just as the FCC set its mandate for broadcast-industry HD transmission. Adding to the technology provided by AltaSens’ technical team and the associated intellectual property from Rockwell were the business acumen and initial funding that were provided by ITX Corporation of Tokyo, Japan. The new company introduced the world’s first 1080p60 CMOS sensors at the NAB show in April of 2004.

Subsequently, AltaSens became a wholly owned subsidiary of ITX Corporation. During this time, the company delivered several unique sensors meeting specialized requirements for prototype imaging cameras that were not made available for commercial sale.

AltaSens is currently a leading supplier of imaging sensors for HD videoconferencing and has supplied imaging sensors for many types of HDTV cameras, including the first Blu Ray camcorders offered in the global marketplace.

The leadership team at AltaSens has decades of international business and advanced technology development experience in the semiconductor industry. We have successfully created many innovative imaging sensor designs for leading-edge cameras and scientific instruments. Working closely with our customers as well as our talented sensor design, wafer production, sensor packaging, sensor production, logistics, and quality assurance teams, we bring together world-class expertise and creativity to supply the best possible CMOS imaging sensor for each specific application.
"

Lester Kozlowski and Gregory Chow
in an early AltaSens Lab

Nintendo Switch Controller Features 3D Camera

Arstechnica: The newly announced Nintendo Switch gaming console features 3D camera in its controllers:

"The most intriguing surprise inside the Joy-Con controller is a motion-depth infrared camera, which Nintendo's designers insist can differentiate between distinct hand shapes. To illustrate this, Nintendo reps showed off the controller recognizing hand shapes for rock, paper, and scissors. The tracker will also be able to detect exactly how far an object is from the controller. Nintendo says these will be able to record full video "in the future."

The Joy Con's motion-tracking IR camera.
The IR camera is able to recognize hand shapes
The camera also measures distance to an object

Framos to Distribute Sony Consumer Sensors in North America

Pressebox: FRAMOS becomes Sony North American Stocking Distributor of consumer image sensors, in both packaged and bare die form.

"We are very proud to grow with Sony and its Semiconductor and Sensor division with the addition of the Consumer Imaging Sensors offering. We believe that easy access to world leading sensors such as the IMX177, IMX277, IMX377 and IMX477 will be popular with clients in all consumer based verticals," says Sebastien Dignard, President of FRAMOS Technologies.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Altasens News

PRNewswire: AltaSens has adopted the Cadence Modus Test Solution for its mixed-signal next-generation 90nm image sensors. The Modus enabled AltaSens to deliver its first digital-on-top (DOT) image sensor much more efficiently. AltaSens design team was able to meet fault coverage goals with greater than 98 percent static coverage.

Nikkei: JVC Kenwood Corp will release a lens-interchangeable 4k GW-MD100 camera module targeted at various systems such as the aerial cameras of cranes and drones, observation cameras for academic use, surveying/monitoring cameras for roads, bridges, etc. It is equipped with a Super 35mm 13.5MP image sensor developed by AltaSens which is affiliated with JVC Kenwood.

Altasense published a demo of this sensor about 3 years ago, while the GW-MD100 is scheduled to be released in late March 2017:

Google RAISR and Draco Reduce Amount of 2D and 3D Data

Google says it has developed RAISR machine learning technology that can upsample the image by 4x with visually pleasing results:

Top: Original, Bottom: RAISR super-resolved 2x.
Original image from Andrzej Dragan

The smart machine learning algorithm is said to be able to recognize and remove the aliasing artifacts from the downsampled image:

Left: Low res original, with strong aliasing.
Right: RAISR output, removing aliasing.

Google paper "RAISR: Rapid and Accurate Image Super Resolution" by Yaniv Romano, John Isidoro, Peyman Milanfar is to be published in IEEE Transactions on Computational Imaging.

Google also announces Draco - an open-source algorithm for 3D image compression.

"With Draco, applications using 3D graphics can be significantly smaller without compromising visual fidelity. For users this means apps can now be downloaded faster, 3D graphics in the browser can load quicker, and VR and AR scenes can now be transmitted with a fraction of the bandwidth, rendered quickly and look fantastic."

Friday, January 13, 2017

World's First Graphene Integration onto CMOS Image Sensor

archiv.org publishes a paper "Image sensor array based on graphene-CMOS integration" by Stijn Goossens, Gabriele Navickaite, Carles Monasterio, Shuchi Gupta, Juan José Piqueras, Raúl Pérez, Gregory Burwell, Ivan Nikitskiy, Tania Lasanta, Teresa Galán, Eric Puma, Alba Centeno, Amaia Pesquera, Amaia Zurutuza, Gerasimos Konstantatos, and Frank Koppens. The authors are affiliated with Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology, Institució Catalana de Recerça, and Graphenea SA, all based in Spain.

From the abstract:

"Here, we show for the first time the monolithic integration of a CMOS integrated circuit with graphene, operating as a high mobility phototransistor. We demonstrate a high-resolution image sensor and operate it as a digital camera that is sensitive to UV, visible and infrared light (300 – 2000 nm). The demonstrated graphene-CMOS integration is pivotal for incorporating 2d materials into the next generation microelectronics, sensor arrays, low-power integrated photonics and CMOS imaging systems covering visible, infrared and even terahertz frequencies."

At a closer look, the sensing layer is, actually, "PbS colloidal quantum dots: upon light absorption an electron-hole pair is generated, due to the built in electric field the hole transfers to the graphene while the electron remains trapped in the quantum dots:"


"Due to the high mobility of graphene (here ~1000 cm2/Vs), this photoconductor structure exhibits ultra-high gain of 10^8 and responsivity above 10^7 A/W, which is a strong improvement compared to photodetectors and imaging systems based on quantum dots only."

The sample images are quite nice for a first graphene image sensor ever produced:


"Future graphene-based image sensors can be designed to operate at higher resolution, in a broader wavelength range, and potentially even with a form factor that fits inside a smartphone or smartwatch (Supplementary Notes, Figure S9). In contrast to current hybrid imaging technologies (which are not monolithic), we do not encounter fundamental limits with respect to shrinking the pixel size and increasing the imager resolution. Graphene patterning and contacting, i.e. lithography, will ultimately be the limiting factor. Therefore, competitively performing image sensors with multi-megapixel resolutions and pixel pitches down to 1 µm are within reach."

A somewhat similar paper, albeit from different authors, is going to be presented at ISSCC 2017 Session 15 on Feb. 7:

"15.7 Heterogeneous Integrated CMOS-Graphene Sensor Array for Dopamine Detection," B. Nasri, T. Wu, A. Alharbi, M. Gupta, R. Ranjit Kumar, S. Sebastian, Y. Wang, R. Kiani, D. Shahrjerdi, New York University, Brooklyn, NY.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Corephotonics Raises $15M

Reuters, Globes: Israeli startup Corephotonics developing dual camera technologies for smartphones raises a $15M round bringing the total raised amount to $50M since it was founded in 2012.

The investors list in this round is impressive: Samsung Ventures, Foxconn, and MediaTek. Corephotonics’ current investors include Magma VC, Samsung Ventures, Amiti Ventures, Chinese billionaire Li Ka-shing and Solina Chau’s Horizon Ventures, OurCrowd, SanDisk, Chinese telephony services provider CK Telecom, and additional private investors.

The investment, along with the existing cash on hand and revenue forecast for 2017, will be used for developing next generation cameras for smartphones, and for expanding existing products’ penetration. In addition, the new funding will help Corephotonics expand into the automotive, drone, surveillance, and action camera markets.

Corephotonics, which currently has 50 employees, intends to recruit dozens of additional engineers for the company’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, as well as support and integration engineers in China and South Korea, following an expected significant growth in sales. In addition, the company is exploring opportunities to acquire complementary technologies.

The company co-founder and CEO David Mendelovic said, “We established Corephotonics in order to improve the image quality in smartphones, and to provide consumers with a unique user experience, after we identified this need of device manufacturers. We successfully predicted the use of dual cameras, and we currently see such cameras being integrated into a broad range of smartphones by all leading manufacturers. We are pleased that top tier investors have expressed confidence in our capabilities, allowing us to develop next generation camera technologies, which will reach the market within the next few years.

Corephotonics Hummingbird module

IISW 2017 Final Call for Papers

2017 International Image Sensor Workshop to be held on May 30 - June 2 2017 in Hiroshima, Japan announces Final Call for Papers and the Workshop registration details:

"Abstracts should be submitted electronically by January 19, 2017 (JST).

Registration is limited to approximately 160 attendees on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration will be guaranteed for presenters, but they are still required to register. Past experience shows that registration is often filled to capacity within a few days’ time.

Pre-registration will start on January 24, 2017 and end on February 10, 2017.

You will receive confirmation of your registration, and registration payment instructions, after all 160 attendees have been identified. It will be around February 20, 2017.
"

Grand Prince Hotel Hiroshima, IISW 2017 place

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

DxOMark Puzzled by Red Helium 8K Sensor Score

DxOMark publishes its scores for Red Helium 8K image sensor prototype, and tries to explain exceptionally high Raw performance of this APS-H sensor, even in comparison with Sony full-frame ones:


Puzzled by seemingly impossible improvements in SNR and DR over Sony BSI full-frame sensor, DxO checks Row files for pixel noise correlation, a sure sign of applied spatial noise reduction. However, there was no any correlation:


Then, DxO suspects that Red has applied a temporal noise reduction: "This technique, called temporal noise reduction (TNR), is most commonly used in video, since there are many successive frames to work with. However, temporal correlations across a time axis are not relevant when analyzing the image quality of a single RAW image, as they do not impact any RAW converters.

Whatever noise reduction system RED employs creating the RAW images from the Helium sensor, its presence means that we aren’t measuring just the RED sensor, so its results aren’t directly comparable to those from camera sensors we have tested from other vendors, whose RAW results come straight from the sensor with no prior noise reduction processing.
"