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PHILIPS SEMICONDUCTOR ANNOUNCES SEEMOS TECHNOLOGY FOR VIDEO CAMERAS SMALLER THAN A SUGAR CUBE.

Philips Semiconductors, an affiliate of Royal Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG) announces that it has developed a way of making a new generation of tiny video cameras with high picture quality. By adapting its standard chip manufacturing processes, the company can replace specific expensive image sensors and have most of the remaining circuitry integrated onto the same chip. This means eliminating several additional chips and results in a compact video camera design that is much smaller, much less expensive and uses a fifth less power than current designs.

Chris Schaeffer, Philips Semiconductors' project manager for New Technologies, said: "With our new SeeMOS technology, manufacturers will be able to make video cameras no thicker than a pencil and about a centimeter long. This opens up a tremendous range of low-cost, high-volume applications - especially as the technology operates at only 3.3 volts, as opposed to the 15 volts required by today's designs based on CCD (Charge Coupled Device) technology. The small size and tiny power requirements are well-suited for handheld, battery-operated products - in particular the next generation of mobile phones with video phone capability, so-called 3G phones."

"SeeMOS offers excellent picture quality and, with a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels (one of the common standards for PC monitors), is ideal for use in low-cost video conferencing for laptops and PCs, medical cameras, security cameras, baby monitoring, image recognition systems, tiny solid-state camcorders, computer vision for collision avoidance systems in cars and in toys. One of these tiny cameras could even be built into a pair of glasses for a webcam or video postcards."

CCD manufacturing technology, which is used to make image sensors today, requires special manufacturing facilities and is not suitable for the formation of additional circuitry to perform the image processing functions. The converse idea of putting image sensors (photo diodes) onto conventional CMOS ICs is not often implemented.

The first challenge is fine-tuning the standard CMOS process technology so that it is more sensitive to light and has a good response across the entire visible spectrum. The company has developed high sensitivity process options, which are compatible to generic CMOS processes.

The second challenge is that putting image-processing circuitry on the IC cuts down on the area available to capture the image, making the CMOS-based solution less sensitive than a CCD one. For example, a pixel in a CCD device measures 5 microns by 5 microns - all of which captures light. With SeeMOS technology, over half the area is taken up with circuitry and therefore lost for light capture. To overcome this, Philips Semiconductors has used techniques from its CCD technology and puts a tiny lens over each pixel to focus the light onto the light sensitive area. Before applying the micro-lenses, a Bayer color filter pattern is placed on the surface of the sensor area to obtain full color images. As one of the leading manufacturers of high quality, large CCDs for digital cameras used by professional photographers, astronomers and doctors the company can draw on its systems knowledge to create complete video camera solutions with customers.

Philips Semiconductors views SeeMOS as complementary to its existing CCD business. The new technology is ideal for smaller format video or digital-still cameras but it is not currently suitable for digital-still cameras using over one million pixels. The company will continue to service this area as well as high-resolution video cameras with CCD products.
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Publication:EDP Weekly's IT Monitor
Date:Mar 13, 2000
Words:564
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