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Qualcomm® is making waves with its new Spectra Module image signal processor. The processor is not a camera but rather a set of technologies engineered from the ground up to be integrated into their next generation Snapdragon™ processor. This technology enables manufacturers to build different types of functionality into their cameras such as iris scanning, passive depth sensing and active depth sensing.
The iris scanning can be used to facilitate identity checking and unlocking of Android phones with a simple Iris scan.
The technology is designed for maximum flexibility to camera manufacturers, especially in the application of dual lens cameras. Thus one variation involves telephoto viewing or ultra-sharp black and white images.
A more advanced implementation, however, involves depth sensing. This uses two cameras and can be used – amongst other things – to create a “bokeh” effect (from the Japanese for blurred) in which the subject is sharp but the background (and foreground) blurred. This is in many cases similar to macro photography, yet it can be implemented in the processing stage, using two cameras to detect different depths of field.
Another system uses an infra-red camera and an active IR projector to fire dots at a target that are detected by the IR camera, thereby building up a depth image map. The technology also makes it harder to deceive facial recognition security implementations with a two dimensional image.
The announcement is rumoured to have been timed to beat Apple to the punch over the forthcoming unveiling of the iPhone8 in a month’s time. Speculation has been rife that the iPhone 8 will also feature depth sensing. Qualcomm’s move seems calculated to steal a march on their rivals (and former customers) with whom they are currently engaged in a vicious legal battle over modem chips and royalties.
Despite the announcement, it is likely that the iPhone will hit the market first. But based on Qualcomm’s announcement, it is highly probable that a whole range of products incorporating the Qualcomm Spectra technology will show up in the market in the early part of 2018.