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3D image sensors bring virtual reality to smartphones

22 Dec 2015

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Optimised form factor: Half the sensor size

The 3D image sensor chips to be showcased at the CES were specifically designed for mobile devices, where most applications only need a resolution of 38,000 pixels. The previous 100,000-pixel matrix was accordingly scaled down, and other functional blocks, such as the analogue/digital converter for the chip area and performance range were optimised. Thus, the system costs are lower: the sensor chip area is almost halved, and, because of the lower resolution, smaller and less expensive optical lenses can be used.

3D image sensor chips with 19,000; 38,000 and 100,000 pixels

The three REAL3 3D image sensor chips are all equipped with microlenses and have almost the same level of optical performance and functionality. They differ only in their resolutions: the IRS1125C works with 352 x 288 pixels, the IRS1645C with 224 x 172 pixels and the IRS1615C with 160 x 120 pixels. In this respect, the IRS1645C and IRS1615C are produced on half the chip area of the IRS1125C.

Google's Project Tango using Infineon's IRS1645C 3D image sensor chip

The IRS1645C is particularly suitable for use in mobile devices. Infineon and pmdtechnologies are joint partners in Google's 'Project Tango.' With 'Tango,' cell phones and tablets are equipped with a special optical sensor system for 3D perception, which includes a 3D camera with Infineon's IRS1645C 3D image sensor chip. Applications are augmented reality, indoor navigation and 3D measurement. The complete 3D camera for Google Tango, consisting of IRS1645C and an active infrared laser illumination, is housed in an area of about 10mm x 20mm. With a range up to 4m, a measuring accuracy of one per cent of the distance and a frame rate of 5fps, the 3D camera subsystem consumes less than 300mW in active mode.

Time-of-flight Principle (ToF)

The 3D image sensor chips operate with infrared light and use the time-of-flight (ToF) measuring principle: For each of its pixels, the 3D image sensor chip measures the time the infrared light takes to travel from the camera to the object and back again. At the same time, each of the pixels also detects the brightness value of the objects.

Other applications of the image sensor chip include the spatial measurement of rooms and objects, indoor navigation and the implementation of special photo effects. The IRS1125C will be available in volume as of 1Q16. The start of production for the smaller IRS1645C and IRS1615C is planned for 2Q16. All three types are exclusively delivered as a bare die.

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