[ISSCC] Samsung's CMOS Sensor Takes Range, RGB Images at Same Time

Feb 25, 2012
Tomonori Shindo, Nikkei Electronics
The architecture of the new CMOS sensor
The architecture of the new CMOS sensor
[Click to enlarge image]
A picture of the chip
A picture of the chip
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A range image taken by the sensor
A range image taken by the sensor
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Samsung Electronics Co Ltd developed what it claims is the world's first CMOS sensor that can obtain a range image and a normal RGB (red, green and blue) image at the same time.

The sensor was announced at ISSCC 2012, which took place from Feb 19 to 23, 2012, in the US (thesis number 22.7).

As a method of obtaining a range image, the sensor uses the ToF (time-of-flight) method, which is commonly used. In the past, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) announced a technology to integrate pixels for obtaining range images (Z pixels) and RGB pixels on one image sensor. But, due to limitations related to near-infrared filter, etc, it cannot simultaneously obtain a range image and an RGB image in a strict sense. It is just an output in a time-sharing manner.

Range image sensors are drawing attention because of the success of Microsoft Corp's "Kinect" gesture-based controller. However, the Kinect is equipped with a range image sensor using the "structured light method." And an image sensor for RGB images is required in addition to the range image sensor. Also, with a stereo method, there need to be two cameras for a parallax.

With the new technology, a normal RGB image and a range image can be obtained at the same time by using a single image sensor, enabling to reduce the sizes of gesture-based controllers, etc. Also, the technology might make it easy to add a range image measurement function to digital cameras, camcorders, etc so that they can recognize gestures.

RGB area has pixel count of 1.38 million

The pixel counts of an RGB image and a range image are 1,920 x 720 and 480 x 360, respectively. The aperture ratio is 48%. The pixel pitch of the RGB area is 2.25μm with a normal RGBG arrangement.

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