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Canesta CMOS sensor detects 3D images for mobile apps

Posted: 27 Mar 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:cmos sensor? canasta? image sensor? cellphone image sensor? pda image sensor?

Startup Canesta Inc. is taking a unique approach to using a CMOS sensor array to open up a new set of low-cost applications in 3D image detection. The company is about two months away from delivering first engineering samples of a low-power chip to OEM partners, initially targeting short-range image-detection applications for mobile systems.

Canesta's technology essentially uses a sensor array as a digital stopwatch, capturing the time it takes light to travel from a known source, off an object and onto a spot on a sensor array. From that data, the device can then calculate a 3D map of an image.

Patent outline

Canesta would not provide technical details about its chip, which is being built in a 0.255m process at United Microelectronics Corp. Its first patent, however, number 6,323,942, gives some suggestions of the nature of its operation.

The patent describes a chip that contains a 100x100-pixel sensor array, a microcontroller, high-speed clock, memory, and I/O. The controller triggers regular pulses of light from an LED. The on-chip sensor array consists of pulse detectors, each associated with a high-speed counter linked to the on-board clock.

When light hits an individual pixel, the counter information?essentially the light's time of flight?is saved and passed to an on-board controller or digital signal processor that calculates the image map. The patent also describes a second implementation that counts the amount of light over a fixed time, eliminating the counters and clock.

The initial device will only detect images across a short distance of perhaps 18 inches on a flat surface. The company demonstrates the device being used to create a virtual keyboard projected onto a table by a PDA or a cellular phone.

A second generation, which will follow in about a year, will have enough additional resolution and distance capability to be considered for applications such as basic face recognition suitable for home security or gesture detection for gaming. And a third generation might extend to cover uses such as car collision-detection subsystems.

Chief executive Nazim Kareemi would only say the device will cost well under $100, consume under 100mW of power and be similar in size to a CMOS imager in a digital camera or an infrared port on a PDA. The company has more than 25 other patents pending.

The company, which now employs 35 people, has garnered $20 million from venture capital and other sources. The startup expects its chips and embedded software development kits will be available later this year.

Rick Merritt

EE Times





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