On-Sensor AI Is Coming to Smartphones

With AI becoming practically ubiquitous now, mobile phone camera sensor designs are starting to incorporate artificial intelligence onboard camera sensors for the first time.

Samsung has been working with fellow sensor maker SK Hynix to develop the new sensor and it could be a game changer for mobile content creators.

Cameras have already begun incorporating AI into software through computationnal photography, but with a dedicated chip that takes up room within the overall electronic design.

By featuring AI on an image sensor, computational photography can be done purely through software adjustments and in real-time.

Image sensors are powerful enough now, that smartphones can process data on the sensor chip, without handing off that workflow. The result is a faster image capture with better image processing, with less latency or power use, and with improved subject recognition.

The goal is to get image sensors, dubbed “Humanoid Sensors,” to better understand just what is being captured, rather than merely record light and dynamic range data as a matter of 1s and 0s. A sensor will be able to better comprehend what the photographer is seeking to capture and use image processing to better reflect it.

Samsung has announced a 200-megapixel ISOCell image sensor with its new “Zoom Anyplace” technology, which uses AI to digitally track subjects record metadata for depth, and move within the digital focal length without modifying the subject or the angle of view itself.

The company believes that a hybrid sensor will be able to use the new humanoid sensor design to give cameras the same kind of vision as humans and produce an image that could be up to 600 megapixels in resolution.

The technology is able to overcome the artifacting that occurs while digitally zooming into an image, by simultaneously shooting both the zoomed-in area and the full frame in 4k, and merging them in a way that doesn’t compromise sharpness or color. This enables the potential and versatility of recording one scene in multiple ways.

While the hybrid humanoid sensor with AI is in the early stages of development, it’s likely that it will be a few more years before we see the technology seeded down into cameras or mobile devices.

But with the speed at which AI learns, it’s equally likely that the traditional development window will decrease, and the feature set become more powerful than envisioned. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and see where AI takes it.

Meanwhile, SK Hynix will showcase its next-generation semiconductor technologies at CES in Las Vegas from January 9–12, 2024.

[source: Peta Pixel, Samsung]

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