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Sony developing 1,000 fps image sensor for intelligent computer sensing

Sony, in conjunction with Nissan Motor Co. and a Tokyo University professor, is developing affordable 1,000 fps image sensor technology for smart products.

Published onSeptember 7, 2015

Sony XMOR RS Sensor Xmor G Lens Close up Image Sensor-3

Sony is the market leader in the image sensor business and the company is looking to maintain a significant lead over its competitors with new technologies. One of the latest is Sony’s research into an affordable 1,000 fps capable image sensor, which is being developed in conjunction with Nissan Motor Co. and Masatoshi Ishikawa, a Tokyo University professor.

The new 1000 fps sensor has been developed by stacking the circuit and sensor parts for faster speeds and a high resolution, rather than placing the components side-by-side. Sony has been able to reach speeds over 900 fps with some prototypes, while your typical modern smartphone camera sensor might be capable of slow motion video capture at 120 frames per second.

However, this isn’t really a fair comparison as these fast image sensors aren’t necessary for capturing the perfect picture or home video, but they do open up development of new technologies that make use of intelligent computer sensing. The work being conducted with Nissan could enable driverless vehicles that can quickly detect and avoid hazards, or be put to use to develop faster industrial manufacturing methods.

“The images for sensing require a different kind of chip, and the challenge is converting technologies that make beautiful photos to new uses.” – Shinichi Yoshimura, Sony

High speed image sensors can also play an important role in lowering the cost of advanced gesture recognition systems. Such technologies at an affordable price point could find use in a wide range of consumer and industrial applications, including wearable gadgets and other mobile products.

“High-speed image sensors are a niche industry, but Sony has the power to take it mainstream … And that may be just two years away.” – Masatoshi Ishikawa, University of Tokyo

1,000 fps image sensors already exist but are hugely expensive and relatively large, which prohibits their widespread use. These type of sensors cost anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000 from companies including Sony and Vision Research Inc. By adapting its existing mobile image sensor technology, Sony should be able to produce competitive chips at a fraction of previous sizes and costs.

Sony anticipates that image sensor sales could climb as much as 62 percent to 1.5 trillion yen in three years. However, the company also expects that its rivals will catch up with its mobile image sensor technology, so finding new markets will be key in order to stay ahead. Sony is apparently investing €1.5B ($1.7B) in its image sensor operating in FY16, five times the amount that it invested in FY15.

This new sensor technology may help Sony diversify its sensors into new markets and could result in some exciting new products for us consumers. Definitely something to key an eye on.

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