Next-Generation Android Phones Could Have Depth-Sensing Cameras Thanks To Qualcomm


The next Android you'll own might have depth-sensing cameras, if Qualcomm's second-generation Spectra, an image processing technology, delivers its promised capabilities.

The company has now shared new details about its next Snapdragon processor, including new features the new chip can perform. The image signal processor will be built into the upcoming chip.

Qualcomm's Spectra Image Processor Just Got Better

Aside from general improvements such as noise reduction and video stabilization, one of the key additions to Qualcomm's second-gen Spectra is advanced sensing features. In 2016, Qualcomm launched the Snapdragon 835 processor with the Spectra Module Program, which allowed manufacturers to choose from image processing setup presets and put that into its devices that pack a Snapdragon chip.

With the second-gen Spectra, Qualcomm will offer three new modules: one that can perform iris scanning, one that can do passive depth sensing, and one with active depth sensing. You might have already heard of iris scanning since the Snapdragon 835-powered Samsung Galaxy S8 utilizes that feature. Qualcomm says, however, that its iris scanning offers improved performance and better accuracy, and that it can determine whether it's being spoofed.

Depth-Sensing Cameras

The passive depth sensor, meanwhile, uses two camera lenses to capture the same scene. Spectra will compare the images from each and determine the depth of objects in the resulting photo, mimicking the way a human eye perceives depth.

The most interesting module, however, is the active depth sensor, which takes an infrared illuminator and scatters thousands of IR dots, which is then viewed by an IR sensor. It can then determine the distortion in the dot patterns, which helps it map the depth of objects more accurately than via passive depth sensing.

In this kind of depth sensing, the regular camera also works simultaneously, capturing regular color and applying it to the image. In the end, you end up with an accurate 3D image created almost immediately. But it's not just accuracy: active depth sensing can help with low-light situations, too.

Qualcomm has specific goals in mind. They want manufacturers to use its second-gen Spectra processor to innovate virtual reality and augmented reality on mobile platforms, in addition ensuring that face scanning is more accurate and secure.

Qualcomm is expected to reveal its next-generation Snapdragon processor later this year. By normal release cycle standards, expect this chip — the new Spectra modules included — to be released on smartphones next year.

"Our breakthrough advancements in visual quality and computer vision, combined with our family of integrated Qualcomm Spectra ISPs for Snapdragon, are designed to support an ecosystem of cutting edge mobile applications for our customers," Qualcomm VP of product management Tim Leland said.

Thoughts about the second-generation Spectra processor? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

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