Sony has been at the forefront of image sensors for portable image devices including a multitude of smart phones and wearable devices, and it looks like the Japanese electronics giant is not showing any signs of slowing down.
On the contrary, recently Bloomberg reported that the company is working on some pretty specialised image sensors capable of the staggering 1000 frames per second, yes that is 1000 picture per second, which are destined to find a home in the automotive and security industries.
"Sony is focusing on sensors that take photos at least 10 times faster than the human eye can see. The company is working with Nissan Motor Co. and a Tokyo University professor on affordable technology that can process 1,000 images a second."
Sony do already have a 1-inch EXMOR RS (Stacked) CMOS sensor capable of slow-motion up to 960fps (albeit at a very low resolution) at the hear of the new RX100 IV compact and RX10 II Super zoom camera. However, the new sensor they are working on is unlikely to end up in any form of consumer camera, the reasons being - cost, size and image quality.
“Until now, Sony has been very focused on designing image sensors that deliver beautiful photos,” said Shinichi Yoshimura, a Sony manager in charge of combining hardware and software for emerging technologies. “The images for sensing require a different kind of chip, and the challenge is converting technologies that make beautiful photos to new uses.”
“High-speed image sensors are a niche industry, but Sony has the power to take it mainstream,” [Masatoshi Ishikawa, University of Tokyo professor of engineering and robotics, said.] “And that may be just two years away.”
Images sensor capable of 1,000 fps and even more already exist, but are extremely expensive and relatively large, which prohibits their widespread consumer use. These type of sensors cost anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000 from companies including Sony and Vision Research Inc. By adapting its existing mobile image sensor technology, Sony should be able to produce competitive chips at a fraction of previous sizes and costs.
Sony anticipates sales of image sensors could potentially increase to as much as 62% to 1.5 trillion yen in the next three years. It won't be easy as this is also a market that is expected to see more competition from rivals, who are yet to catch up with its mobile image sensor technology, but making strides to do so indeed.
Exploring new markets for intelligent image sensor technology will be a primary focus, as Sony is apparently investing $1.7 Billion in its image sensor operating in FY16, five times the amount that it invested in FY15.