One megatrend feature in mobile communications is to unlock smartphones by 3D face recognition instead of fingerprint or PIN. Making authentication more convenient and more secure, it may soon become indispensable for mobile payment applications and mobile ID. With the 3D image sensor chip from Infineon Technologies AG the unlock-with-your-face feature becomes smarter, faster and more reliable.
Together with its innovation partner pmdtechnologies AG, Infineon has developed a new 3D image sensor in its REAL3 chip family, based on Time-of-flight (ToF) technology. It enables the world’s smallest camera module for integration in smartphones with a footprint of less than 12 mm x 8 mm, including the receiving optics and VCSEL (Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser) illumination. Infineon and pmdtechnologies will present their product innovation at CES 2018 (Consumer Electronics Show, 9-12 January 2018, Las Vegas, booth MP26065 in South Hall 2 of the Las Vegas Convention Centre). Produced in Dresden and developed in Munich and Graz, the chip comes with expertise from Germany and Austria.
Advantages of Time-of-flight support rapid market growth
Market forecasts expect smartphones with 3D sensing functionality to increase from about 50 million units in the year 2017 to roughly 290 million units in 2019. Compared to other 3D sensor principles, such as stereoscopic light or structured light approaches, Time-of-flight offers advantages in performance, size and power consumption of battery-operated mobile devices.
Two factors provide the camera’s range and measurement accuracy: the intensity of the emitted and reflected infrared light, and the pixel sensitivity of the 3D image sensor chip. The REAL3 chip has 38,000 pixels with each pixel featuring the unique Suppression of Background Illumination (SBI) circuitry. It is tuned to work at 940 nm infrared light sources making the projected light invisible and improving the outdoor performance even further. Furthermore, the IRS238xC integrates a dedicated function to support Laser-Class-1 safety level of the complete solution.
ToF camera module is ready for mass production
Cameras of Infineon and pmdtechnologies are the only ToF-based depth cameras integrated in commercially available smartphones. They have convinced leading camera module makers for mobile phones and are proven for efficient volume production with high yield. In addition, they do not have to be re-calibrated during use.
Samples of the new Infineon 3D image sensor chip are already available. Volume production is scheduled to start in Q4 2018. Software partners like Sensible Vision Inc. and IDEMIA offer application software for user face detection and authentication. Demos with REAL3 3D image sensor chip are available.