Sony Image Sensor Comes with Built-In AI

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TOKYO, May 22, 2020 — Sony Corp. has presented the world’s first image sensors with built-in artificial intelligence, saying the technology will make data-gathering tasks faster and more secure. Calling it the first of its kind, Sony said the technology would give “intelligent vision” to cameras for retail and industrial applications.

Sony said its sensors are similar to self-contained computers, incorporating a logic processor and memory. The sensors, Sony said, are capable of image recognition without generating any images, allowing them to do AI tasks such as 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.

Sony joins technology giants such as Huawei and Google in working to build dedicated AI silicon to help accelerate everything from image processing to machine learning. Sony said its latest semiconductors could offer a boost to augmented reality applications, should the technology be adapted for the smartphone or consumer markets.

Sony said its AI-augmented sensors are capable of capturing a regular 12-MP image, a 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, or neither, instead providing only metadata about what the sensor has seen. Among the applications suggested by Sony are the counting and tracking of visitors to public spaces, heat and congestion mapping, and measuring shopper behavior in retail locations.

Though intended for commercial customers in its present iteration, Sony said the technology has promise for consumer applications as well. It could help a personal device such as a smartphone identify objects and users securely, without generating any actual images. 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's new products are in line with the company’s long-term goal, according to CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, of expanding the variety of sensing solutions it offers and pursuing more forms of recurring revenue.

Sony also said it had already shipped samples of its new sensors to potential customers, who are mostly in the business-to-business segment, including factory automation.

Published: May 2020
artificial intelligence
The ability of a machine to perform certain complex functions normally associated with human intelligence, such as judgment, pattern recognition, understanding, learning, planning, and problem solving.
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