12 Jul 2023
China's Dilusense deploys mass-produced meta-optics in facial recognition systems.
Harvard University spin-out Metalenz says its metasurface optics - now being produced in volume by semiconductor foundry United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) - are appearing in a new series of biometric security scanners from Chinese customer Dilusense.
Set to be used for high-end residential and commercial building access, as well as vending machines across China, the scanners use conventional cameras to recognize a user's face, and then capture an additional three-dimensional infrared image to authenticate the user against pre-registered biometric credentials.
“Using structured light, the 3D sensing system creates a point cloud made up of more than 30,000 individual dots and then measures pattern distortion to compute facial contours unique to everyone,” explained Metalenz.
“The ‘Orion’ meta-optic dot projector by Metalenz enables an improved structured-light pattern with over 30,000 precise laser dots to enhance the biometric recognition performance of Dilusense's 3D sensing systems.”
UMC production ramp
The agreement comes just a couple of weeks after Metalenz revealed details of its partnership with UMC, which was said to mark the launch of metasurface optics on the open market for the first time - with Dilusense as the first customer.
Metalenz CEO Rob Devlin, who co-founded the Boston-based startup alongside photonics pioneer Federico Capasso, said of the UMC deal:
“After initially designing meta-optics in partnership with one of the leading suppliers of 3D sensing solutions, we are now engaged with OEMs directly to bring the benefits of metasurface optics to their 3D sensing applications.
“By partnering with a world-class foundry like UMC, we gain the manufacturing capabilities, expertise, and global reach to serve customers interested in adopting our meta-optics technology.
“This will further accelerate our growth as we are becoming the leading provider of precision optics for 3D sensing solutions.”
The “flat” optical components enabled by meta-surfaces are regarded as having the potential to revolutionize the field of optics, enabling the design of smaller, lighter, and more efficient optical systems.
“With the manufacturing capabilities provided by UMC, Metalenz will be able to accelerate the development of its meta-optic products and bring them to market more quickly as a direct supplier to OEMs,” stated the firm.
Dilusense is the first to benefit from that collaboration, with Lars Johnsson, the VP of product, sales, and marketing at Metalenz, commenting:
“The partnership between Dilusense and Metalenz heralds a new era in 3D sensing as it is the first time that the breakthrough capabilities of metasurface optics are commercialized in 3D structured light sensing systems, and this milestone will accelerate the proliferation of our meta-optics in the growing 3D sensing market.”
Founded by Devlin and Capasso in 2016, Metalenz had raised $7.4 million in equity finance by May 2020, before emerging from stealth mode in 2021 to reveal investments from the likes of Intel, 3M, TDK, and Applied Ventures.
Last October the firm closed a $30 million series B round led by Neotribe Ventures, saying that the investment would be used to meet growing demand for its metasurface optics for 3D sensing, while simultaneously accelerating the market introduction of a new polarization imaging platform called “PolarEyes”.
PolarEyes has since gone on to win an SPIE Prism Award in the “Camera and Imaging” category, while Metalenz has moved to a new and larger headquarters in Boston, where it now employs more than 40 people.