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Metalenz joins forces with Samsung to scale polarization ID sensor

27 Feb 2024

The US metamaterials startup and Korean industrial giant confirm collaboration at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress event.

Metalenz, the Boston-based developer of meta-optics technology, has confirmed that it is collaborating with Samsung to bring its novel biometric sensor to smart phones.

Revealed during the giant Mobile World Congress event being held in Barcelona, Spain, this week, the partnership pairs Metalenz’s polarization-based biometrics with a new version of Samsung’s high-performance “ISOCELL” near-infrared sensors.

The idea is to use the unique polarization signature of the human face to create what is claimed to be the world's “smallest, most affordable, and secure biometric face unlock solution for smart phones”.

‘Polar ID’
Described as the world’s only consumer-grade imaging system that can sense the full polarization state of light, Metalenz’s “Polar ID” product is unlike other facial biometric solutions, in that it only requires a single image to work.

Launched last year, the approach is said to reduce the size and cost of existing facial identification technologies by half, with the Samsung partnership providing both a supply of high-end image sensors and an obvious route to scale the technology in smart phones.

Rob Devlin, the Metalenz CEO and co-founder, commented: “Polar ID is poised to bring secure face unlock to hundreds of millions of phones and a whole new class of sensing to millions of people.

“Leveraging the performance and scale of Samsung’s ISOCELL Vizion 931 image sensor allows our Polar ID cameras to quickly and efficiently determine the polarization information in a scene, from which our imaging algorithms and machine learning models authenticate the Polar ID images.

“The collaboration with Samsung marks a new era for mobile vision systems and provides Metalenz with a partner that has the proven quality and scale required to bring Polar ID to all phones.”

According to the two firms, the Samsung sensor enables Polar ID to capture polarized images in the near-infrared spectrum with industry-leading quantum efficiency and advanced global shutter technology.

That performance is thanks to the design of the sensing chip, which incorporates so-called “Front Deep Trench Isolation (FDTI)” to create an insulation layer between pixels along with back-side scattering to maximize overall light absorption and quantum efficiency.

Samsung’s VP of sensor sales and marketing, CY Lee, added: “Our collaboration with Metalenz is not just about combining technologies; it marks a pivotal advancement in biometric imaging capabilities, making face unlock solutions with enhanced security and affordability accessible on a global scale."

Polarization advantage
Formed as a spin-out from Federico Capasso’s Harvard University research group, Metalenz has previously collaborated with electronics giant STMicroelectronics on a commercial time-of-flight sensor, and has also agreed a manufacturing partnership with the Taiwanese chip foundry United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC).

Its “Orion” meta-optic dot projectors have since featured in a series of biometric security scanners produced by the Chinese firm Dilusense, before Metalenz unveiled “Polar ID” in October 2023.

At the time, Metalenz said that existing facial security sensors - most commonly associated with relatively recent iPhone models - required expensive, bulky, and often power-hungry optical modules, limiting the technology to a few high-end models.

“Polar ID harnesses meta-optic technology to extract additional information such as facial contour details and to detect human tissue liveness from a single image,” it explained.

“It is significantly more compact and cost effective than incumbent ‘structured light’ face authentication solutions, which require an expensive dot-pattern projector and multiple images.”

Hyperion OpticsLASEROPTIK GmbHMad City Labs, Inc.HÜBNER PhotonicsSPECTROGON ABPhoton Lines LtdCeNing Optics Co Ltd
© 2024 SPIE Europe
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