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Smart 3D sensing emitter to enhance camera phones

10 Jun 2020

Osram-developed module features IR VCSEL operating at 940nm, with intelligent microcontroller and photodiode.

Osram’s first intelligent emitter module for 3D sensing enables smartphones to take high-quality images and videos with a staggered depth of field.

This means, for example, that in portrait shots the subject's face remains in focus, while the background becomes blurred, an effect known as “bokeh”, from the Japanese word boke, which means "blur" or "haze".

An example of this effect is in the photo to the right, in which the subject is sharp, while the background is artistically out of focus. Besides optimizing image content, the new module can also be used for 3D object recognition or augmented reality applications.

Achieving such effects has been a persistent challenge for smart phone manufacturers; finding the right emitters, photodiodes and VCSEL driver chips, then calibrating them and installing them in the end device. With the new VCSEL-based module Bidos PLPVDC 940 PL01 for time-of-flight applications, Osram claims to have “eliminated a large part of these tasks for handset manufacturers.”

The module features a black package, a 3W infrared VCSEL operating at a wavelength of 940 nm, a matching optical system, an integrated intelligent microcontroller, and a photodiode. Together, the individual components have a footprint of 3.6 x 5.46 mm. The developer says high the efficiency of the VCSEL technology "ensures low power consumption, and therefore, facilitates not only energy management, but also the integration of the component into the end device."

Depth information

The high optical power enables the acquisition of depth information by ToF technology at a distance of up to seven meters. In addition to optimizing image content, customers can also use the depth information for other functions in the smartphone, including 3D object recognition and augmented reality applications like games and interior design.

"Our customers benefit from the ideally matched components and can install our module in their respective end devices with minimal integration effort," said Benedikt von Lindeiner, Product Manager for Sensing at Osram Opto Semiconductors. "Our first intelligent emitter module for 3D sensing not only enables breathtaking optical effects for smartphones photography – it also opens the door to a wide range of 3D-based applications for future smartphone generations.”

Eye safety is also an extremely important consideration. Therefore, special safety mechanisms are integrated in the module. If the photodiode registers a change in the incidence of light – for example, if the optics are damaged after a fall the current supply to the VCSEL is interrupted.

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