S1 sensor powers smartphone cameras

by nativetechdoctor
4 minutes read

In the fiercely competitive smartphone market, camera quality is always said to be the main factor when customers choose to buy a phone, alongside other factors such as battery capacity, durability, memory… Recently, Spectricity company launched the S1 sensor, promising to elevate smartphone cameras to a new level.

According to The Verge, Spectricity, the Belgian-based startup has announced the S1 chip product for smartphone cameras. Spectricity claims the S1 is the first mass-produced spectral imaging camera sensor for mobile devices, and the company is aiming to dominate the field. Within the next two years, Spectricity boldly predicts this sensor will be in every smartphone.

The high price of smartphones often stems from the ability to bring true colors to the camera. However, according to Spectricty, the best smartphones still can’t meet.

The problem stems from shortcomings in the white balance software itself when it comes to removing unrealistic tones. Meanwhile, the human eye does this very well. When a person sees a white wall in sunlight or fluorescent lights, the brain automatically adjusts the color temperature to make both scenes appear white. Smartphones have also tried to do the same but failed.

Limited by the three RGB color channels of red, green, and blue, the automatic white balance algorithms struggle to adjust the color temperature and produce unnatural colors. That’s why photos taken under an incandescent light bulb can appear more orange than photos taken in bright sunlight, just as when taken in the shade, the image appears bluer than it actually is.

Vincent Mouret, CEO of Spectricity, speaks to TNW: “Many smartphone cameras today have built-in powerful processing capabilities, but still no camera can capture the true color.”

To solve this problem, the S1 sensor uses additional filters to analyze the spectral characteristics of an object. After recognizing the light source in the image, the system will correct the color accordingly.

In Spectricity’s demo, with different lighting conditions, the photos taken by the S1 were compared with those taken by the flagship smartphone camera. Although the results are not always the same as the reality, the colors displayed by the S1 are much more consistent under different light sources.

Michael Jacobs, a software engineer from Spectricity, said: “With our solution, photos always have the same color under any lighting conditions.”

The ambition of the S1 application goes beyond the goal of improving photography. As the S1 can record visible and near-infrared spectral bands at video speed, this sensor has the potential to be upgraded in many mobile applications, serving areas such as selling cosmetics online, and e-commerce. , ID verification, health analysis based on skin condition, or even smart gardening (remote vegetable garden care via smartphone).

More specifically, the ability to display skin tones in S1 gradually improved. Smartphone cameras inherently have trouble displaying dark skin and significantly reduce the real quality of the image. Skin analysis applications for medical purposes, makeup, etc. are therefore limited when recording inaccurate results. The fact that the S1 shows and recognizes dark skin has opened up many application opportunities.

Smartphone giants like Apple and Samsung are also investing heavily in camera color fidelity, but Spectricity says industry rivals still can’t compete with the sensor. S1, because Spectricity’s product is rooted in long-term and in-depth research.

Spectricity launch S1 is a long-term product of the IMEC center, a research laboratory specializing in nanoelectronics and digital technology. This collaboration has resulted in the startup amassing 19 patents and 66 active applications, as well as 13 doctoral degrees awarded to the research team.

To commercialize the technological innovations, Spectricity has set up a high-volume production line at semiconductor company X-FAB which is ready for mass production.

However, the S1 has not yet received much attention from the “big” smartphone manufacturers. Perhaps, in the context of a global decline in smartphone sales, Spectricity is betting that investment in the development of the S1 sensor will bring unexpected returns.

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