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Prophesee Detects Rapid Movement

May 19, 2020

Author: Mike Demler

Since 1834, when British mathematician William Horner invented the zoetrope, motion-picture systems have exploited the same principle: simulating movement by capturing and displaying a sequence of still images at shorter intervals than human persistence of vision. But an image sensor needs time to capture each frame, limiting its ability to detect high-speed motion, and recording every pixel with the same exposure limits dynamic range. Prophesee, a French startup founded in 2014 as Chronocam, aims to overcome these limitations with its Metavision event-based sensors (EBSs). These devices allow each pixel to operate asynchronously and independently, capturing events with one-microsecond resolution. EBSs emulate anatomical retinas, because like the eye’s cones and rods, they only transmit spatial and temporal contrast changes, independent of absolute brightness.

The startup shipped its first device in 2016: a QVGA-resolution (320x240) sensor with 30-micron pixels. It recently announced its fourth-generation Metavision product, which combines an HD (1,280x720) sensor manufactured in Sony’s 90nm CMOS-image-sensor (CIS) process with a separate 40nm chip integrating the control and readout circuits. We expect the new device will reach volume production in 4Q20, but its predecessor has already done so. The third-generation Metavision ships in a 13mm x 15mm BGA package and appears in a camera manufactured by Imago. Its target markets include aerospace, automotive, industrial automation, and surveillance cameras.

Metavision is especially well suited to industrial systems, where capturing events with microsecond resolution is useful for monitoring production processes, and to preventive maintenance in vibration monitoring and similar applications. The sensor’s low-light capabilities are ideal for surveillance cameras, and they complement the CIS-based cameras and other sensors in ADASs and autonomous vehicles.

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