From the VGA cameras used in early smartphones to the massive 200-megapixel sensors of today, smartphone photography has come a long way. But despite these advancements, capturing moving subjects quickly still presents a challenge. The issue of blurry photos can be frustrating, especially in dark environments. However, this problem may soon become a thing of the past as Qualcomm is collaborating with French camera chip startup Prophesee to develop a new type of sensor called the Event-Based Metavision sensor.
“Through this collaboration, product developers will be able to dramatically enhance the user experience with cameras that deliver the image quality and operational excellence not available using just traditional frame-based methods,” said Luca Verre, CEO and co-founder of Prophesee.
How does the Prophesee camera sensor work?
Unlike traditional camera sensors, which rely on the same fixed frame rate for the entire image multiple times every second, each pixel of a Metavision sensor features a logic core that continuously monitors changes in the scene. This means the sensor only captures the data when the scene changes, making it much faster and more efficient than traditional camera chips.
To illustrate how this works, let’s take the example of a golfer taking a swing. A traditional sensor captures an extensive inventory of the sky, trees, and grass behind the golfer while missing segments of important information, such as the swing of the club and the movement of the ball. The Metavision sensor, on the other hand, captures only the data that changes, allowing it to capture all the important information without missing a beat.
While the Metavision sensor could revolutionize smartphone photography, it cannot work as a standalone unit, as the smartphone needs to combine both traditional sensor data and the Metavision sensor data to produce blur-free images.
Despite the limitation, the results are quite impressive, and Qualcomm hopes to leverage its partnership with Prophesee to deliver this experience in their upcoming Snapdragon-powered smartphones, with development kits rolling out this year. Currently, Prophesee’s camera chips will be outsourced for manufacturing to Sony Group Corp, with mass production planned for next year.