KEY POINTS

  • Sony has announced the IMX500 sensor
  • This is the first AI image sensor in the world
  • AI cameras will be more secure, cheaper and faster

Sony has announced its first Artificial Intelligence (AI) image sensor. This is a technological premiere in the world of consumer electronics. The memory and processing power incorporated in the new IMX500 sensor allows it to perform computer vision tasks powered by machine learning algorithms without any additional hardware. AI integration opens the possibility of building cheaper, faster, and more secure digital cameras.

According to The Verge, various devices ranging from surveillance cameras to smartphones have benefited from AI integration over the past few years. Machine learning can identify objects and people in the frame, helping to understand video the same way a human would. It can also improve the image quality of the pictures we take. There are almost unlimited applications of this technology, from automated surveillance to self-driving cars.

Many AI applications send videos and images to the cloud in order to be analyzed which can be slow. Cloud data may be exposed to hackers. To overcome these limitations, some manufacturers installed specialized processing cores on consumer electronics devices, as with new high-end phones from Huawei, Google, and Apple. However, according to Sony, its new AI image sensor provides a different solution from these previous approaches.

The new IMX500 sensor is based on edge computing, using dedicated AI chips that are not directly attached to the image sensor. The solution is cost-effective but designed for commercial clients rather than consumer hardware. Sony’s great share in the image processing market will make this technology largely available to clients. In the first phase, the AI image sensor will not end up in tablets, smartphones, and other consumer devices. Instead, it will ship to industrial clients and retailers. A potential application could be Amazon’s cashier-less Go stores.

Sony’s first-generation AI image sensor provides faster processing speeds, privacy, and cost-saving benefits. The object detection is done on-device, as the AI chip is built directly on the image sensor. The AI analysis is performed directly by the image sensor instead of sending off data to a nearby processor or to the cloud.

One of the potential applications of the IMX500 image sensor is creating a smart camera that detects if someone is wearing a mask. Another potential application is in the field of industrial automation. Image sensors with integrated AI can help robots that work in close proximity to humans. Here, the speed of processing information is paramount in order to avoid accidents.

This is only the first generation of an AI image sensor and the technology will undoubtedly improve in the future. Next-generation digital cameras with integrated AI will be themselves little computers able to run various smart apps.

Sony has already started to ship test samples of the IMX500 to early customers. The starting price is $93. The first products equipped with the AI image sensor are expected to arrive in the market in the first quarter of 2021.

Sony announces its first image Sensor with integrated AI Sony announces its first image Sensor with integrated AI Photo: Pixabay