Under no illusion: future optics

13 Aug 2009

Tessera develops tiny yet powerful optics that transform next-gen devices, providing technology to Samsung and Toshiba amongst others. Michael Bereziuk is executive VP of imaging and optics.

Will newer optical technologies mean that mobile handsets will get increasingly smaller and slimline?

Yes. Wafer-level camera (WLC) technology has enabled both a size and cost reduction. When combined with optical image enhancement technology like our OptiML Focus, this provides an alternative to mechanical auto focus and zoom, which further reduces size, yet provides additional features to the mobile phone camera.

Will the handset camera ever reach the capabilities of a standalone compact digital?

Our focus is to continue to develop features that improve the image quality, cost, size and user experience of both digital still cameras and mobile phone cameras.

We’re working to quicken the convergence of digital still camera technology with mobile camera phones and appliances by addressing some of the well-known shortfalls of mobile camera phone solutions today, primarily low-light performance, complex user interfaces and lack of equivalent features.

Will the camera phone eventually completely replace the compact digital for most consumers?

There will always be a place for both types of camera, as the form factor of the cell phone will limit the absolute performance you can achieve with digital still cameras. The laws of physics do eventually impose limits.

There will be always be a place for the higher resolution, more expert user systems, achievable in a smaller, but not the smallest, form factor.

The majority of the volume, however, will be of the camera phone-type solutions that allow the average user to take much-improved images in a variety of settings without having a complex user interface, and numerous buttons and dials to deal with. They will also be able to ‘tag’ those images for storage for easy recovery later.

How do you see the future of optics as chips get smaller and cheaper?

Our vision for the future is a world of ‘smart modules’ spanning a range of applications from mobile phones, to digital still cameras, to surveillance and security systems, laptop computers, games, toys, automotive and television or other monitors.

These smart modules will take advantage of the combination of wafer-level cameras together with optical image enhancement to provide camera modules, which will, in some cases, output a high-quality image, and, in other cases, trigger a system action or series of actions.

We believe that in a little over five years there could be over three billion smart modules shipped each year.

What is a smart module?

The power of smart module technology lies in the combination of the various imaging and optics technologies.

Imagine camera modules that detect and track a face and automatically correct an image for exposure, colour and focus or a surveillance camera that can track a human and zoom into their face, with no moving parts.

Another idea would be intelligent advertising, which monitors one or more faces and identifies gender for tailored adverts.

Equally important is allowing the average user to achieve above-average image quality from a slimline mobile unit, the quality of which could previously only been achieved by experienced photographers.