Sony is Going to Create World’s First Image Sensor With Built-in AI

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Just after the launch of NVIDIA masterpiece A100 GPU, Sony Corp made an announcement that they are working on the world’s first image sensor with built-in artificial intelligence. Sony is promising that data-gathering tasks will be much faster and more secure in this sensor and calling it the first of its kind. Sony Corp mentioned that technology would give “intelligent vision” to cameras for retail and industrial applications.

Sony image sensor

The new sensor has a tiny self-contained computer that holds a logic processor and memory. These sensors are capable of image recognition without generating any images, allowing them to do AI tasks like identifying, analyzing, or counting objects without offloading any information to a separate chip. Sony said the method provides increased privacy while also making it possible to do near-instant analysis and object tracking.

With this new development, Sony Corp joins in the race with other tech giants like Huawei Technologies Co. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google that have been building dedicated AI silicon to help accelerate everything from image processing to machine learning. Its latest semiconductors could offer a big boost to augmented reality applications, should the technology be adapted for the smartphone or consumer markets, where the Japanese company is a leader.

The new AI-augmented sensors can capture a regular 12-megapixel image, 4K video at up to 60 frames per second or neither, providing only metadata about what the sensor has seen. Sony suggested much application where this will be a game-changer like counting and tracking of visitors to public spaces, heat, and congestion mapping and measuring shopper behavior in retail locations.

The technology is not only intended for enterprise and commercial use but also very much applicable to consumer applications. Without generating any actual images, it can help a personal device such as a smartphone identify objects and users securely. The accelerated object detection would also be an advantage for maintaining sharp focus when filming fast-moving subjects such as sports players or pets.

Sony is the world leader in providing image sensors for smartphones such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone and dedicated photo and video cameras from the likes of Nikon Corp. Its sensor division has been its most reliable growth driver over the past few years, boosted by the proliferation of multi-camera phones. The new products are in line with the company’s long-term goal, as articulated by Chief Executive Officer Kenichiro Yoshida, of expanding the variety of sensing solutions it offers and pursuing more forms of recurring revenue.

Sony has already begun shipping samples of its new sensors to potential customers, who are mostly in the business-to-business segment, including factory automation.

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