First autonomous imager for smartphones appliances and automobiles

CEA-Leti has announced what it claims to be the world’s first autonomous imager technology that activates smartphones and small appliances via face recognition or other particular patterns.

Called µWAI (micro-WAY) and sized as small as a 1€ coin, the autonomous imager provides a novel readout and processing architecture co-designed with an optimised algorithmic pipeline, in which the recognition results from a sequence of elementary algorithms, to give ultralow-power wake-up modes and compact silicon implementation to keep prices down.

It is the first smart image sensor jointly offering auto-exposure for all lighting conditions and 88dB dynamic range, plus motion detection and feature extraction for event-based functioning and AI-based object recognition that triggers extremely reliable identification. These key features also facilitate highly reliable decision-making for a few tens of pJ/pixel/frame, which outperforms current off-the-shelf systems. The pJ/pixel/frame measures the energy consumed by each pixel for every single image within a frame of images. A typical implementation needs about 10,000 times more energy than µWAI.

Applications and functions include automatic switching and face identification in mobile devices, contactless smart switching of household appliances and sport-and-entertainment devices in smart homes. It also offers face recognition, people counting, alarm triggering in smart buildings, driver identification, vehicle-interior situation awareness, parking-situation awareness and a smart-unlocking system in automobiles.

“The recognition engine is optimised to recognise faces when movement is detected. CEA-Leti’s team is working hand-in-hand with STMicroelectronics to develop specific smart-imager products as we consider extending the technology to other use cases,” said Antoine Dupret, CEA-Leti’s industrial partnership manager. “We target adapting the recognition engine as IP embedded in various cameras and optimising the performance of the imager to the requirements of our partner’s customers.”