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Canon unveils sensor that could revolutionize digital photography and autonomous driving

Canon developed the world’s first Spad sensor with one million pixels. This definition would make it possible to take pictures without noise, measure the distance of objects and would have applications for cameras, robotics and self-driving cars.

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Last year, Canon unveiled the first Spad sensor (Single Photon Avalanche Diode or in French, avalanche diodes at photon single) of a megapixel, in association with Swiss researchers. In one new article, the firm provides more information on this unique breakthrough which could have repercussions in many sectors.

This new sensor is primarily intended for use as a monochrome photo and video camera. The CMOS sensors, usually used in cameras digital and our smartphones, measure the amount of light so analog, then convert the result into a digital signal, which creates a lot of “noise”. The Spad works by counting each photon, thus obtaining an image of unparalleled clarity.

Eyes for robots

To achieve a definition of one million pixels without losing sensitivity, Canon has succeeded in exceeding the limits of current Spad sensors. The firm has succeeded in creating square pixels and removing the spaces between the pixels in order to capture all the light. This technology is extremely fast, and makes it possible to reduce the exposure time to only 3.8 nanoseconds and thus to film scenes at 24,000 frames per second. Canon was thus able to create a slow motion clip of a beam of light that moves through smoke.

Finally, this sensor can also measure the time of flight of photons, such as ToF sensors in smartphones and the Lidar of the’iPhone. This additional information makes it possible to see the scene in three dimensions with a much higher definition than current sensors. This is used in particular to have an almost instantaneous autofocus, augmented reality and autonomous cars. Canon particularly emphasizes the use for robots which could thus see in 3D. What is curious is that Canon chose to release more details a year after the initial announcement. Maybe we can hope to see this sensor integrate a car or a robot soon?

This ultra-fast camera capable of photographing photons is impressive

Thanks to a collaboration with Canon, EPFL researchers have created a camera capable of taking 3D photos with a speed and unmatched definition. MegaX is so fast that it can capture the path of individual photons!

Posted on 04/25/2020 by Edward Back

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), in association with Canon, have developed a new kind of camera. Thanks to single photon avalanche diodes (SPAD), MegaX is able to capture the path of individual photons with a definition of one million pixels.

MegaX can record up to 24,000 images per second, and simultaneously capture very dark and very bright objects. “We can increase the dynamics enormously, which is not possible with a high definition camera” indicated the professor. Edoardo Charcoal.

3D images of several objects simultaneously

The device can also measure the duration the path of a photon between the object and the camera. This means that it works as a sensor of flight time (ToF) for 3D images, with an application in particular in augmented reality. In addition, MegaX can detect several objects simultaneously. The researchers were able to measure at the same time the distance of a sphere and a transparent plate placed in front, however invisible on a 2D image.

MegaX is not intended for the moment to replace the photo modules in our smartphones. The sensor is much larger, each pixel measuring 9 micrometers, compared to 0.9 micrometers in a traditional camera. “The goal of my research is not necessarily to adapt the MegaX model to a conventional camera, but to create a 4D camera (3 dimensions plus time) with as many pixels as possible in order to obtain a resolution more important ”declared Professor Edoardo Coal.

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