LAHORE, Pakistan — The FaceID system in the iPhone X has demonstrated how depth sensing can enable facial detection, recognition, and authentication, but potential applications for depth sensors extend beyond those use cases as well as the iOS platform. Qualcomm, for one, has taken its Spectra image signal processor (ISP) technology to the next level with a 3-D depth-sensing camera module for Android developed in collaboration with Apple supplier Himax Technologies.

Next year could see the emergence of a depth-sensor ecosystem, including firmware and apps, as more smartphone and wearable-device vendors incorporate third-party modules in their designs.

Qualcomm combined the Spectra imaging technology with Himax’s expertise in wafer optics, sensing, drivers, and module integration to create the SLiM depth sensor for mobile, augmented-reality (AR), virtual-reality (VR), automotive, and surveillance applications. Himax CEO Jordan Wu said his company had been working with Qualcomm for more than four years to develop the 3-D sensing solution.


Qualcomm’s active depth-sensing module (right) features
a depth map with more than 10,000 points of depth
and can detect changes in depth as small as 0.1 mm apart.
Source: Qualcomm

The turnkey camera module delivers real-time depth sensing and 3-D point-cloud generation for both indoor and outdoor environments. The computer vision camera module is expected to appear in a number of products in the first quarter of 2018. 

Qualcomm’s integration of low-power Spectra ISPs into its popular mobile processors bolsters the capability of mobile devices to embrace the emerging use cases.

Read more on EE Times US: Depth-sensing range, power