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Sharp unveils 3-in-1 sensor for smartphones, tablets

26 Jun 2013  | Elmie Gonzales

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Sharp gesture, luminance and proximity sensor

Sharp's gesture, luminance and proximity sensor.

Sharp Corp. has successfully developed a sensor that can detect gestures, subject proximity and illumination of the surrounding area. The company claims that its GP2AP050A00F is the first sensor that can detect all three aspects and is ideal for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs.

Using the sensor's capabilities, users will able to manipulate an image displayed on a smartphone screen by moving a hand near the sensor, to change the brightness and colour of the display in accordance with the brightness and colour of the environment and disable the touchscreen when the user's cheek comes close to the touchscreen during a phone call.

With dimensions of 5.6mm x 2.1mm, the sensor is larger than available smartphone sensors that can detect both light levels and proximity, which are usually 4.0mm x 2.0mm. But as the two sensors have the same thickness at 1.25mm, the GP2AP050A00F could be easily embedded into smartphones, as well.

The sensor in detail
The luminance sensor contained in the new proximity sensor detects brightness by separating surrounding light into red (R), green (G) and blue (B) colours. Therefore, it can be used for determining if it is daytime or evening under sunlight and as well as for distinguishing between, for example, daylight colour and incandescent colour under artificial light such as of lighting apparatus.

The sensor can emphasise the blue and green colours of an image in a bright outdoor environment and the red and yellow colours under incandescent light bulbs. To detect RGB colours, the luminance sensing part of the new sensor is made by covering photo diodes with RGB filters.

Sharp sensor demo

This demonstration illustrates that by moving a hand away from the screen, the image shrinks.

For the detection of gestures and proximity, Sharp used infrared LEDs and light-receiving elements. When the infrared light emitted from the LEDs is reflected on an object and enters the light-receiving elements, the sensor detects the movements (gestures) of the object based on the time variations of the illuminated and non-illuminated areas in the light-receiving elements. Proximity can be determined from the intensity of infrared light received by the light-receiving elements.

Sharp is already talking to companies about its new sensor and expects a smartphone equipped with it to hit the market this year.

The company will start to shipping samples on June 28 and will begin volume production in September 2013 at a rate of three million units monthly.

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