editor's blog
Subscribe Now

Close Enough?

Not long ago, in our coverage of 3D vision, we discussed time-of-flight as one of the approaches to gauging distance. Even though it and the other 3D vision technologies are gunning for low-cost applications, it’s easy, at this point, to view them as exotic works in progress.

Well, time of flight is now being put to use for the most prosaic of duties: making sure your cheek doesn’t accidentally hang up on you.

Of course, our phones already have this feature via their proximity sensor, installed specifically for this purpose. It detects when the phone is near the face and shuts down the touchscreen, both saving power and rendering it immune to the random input it would otherwise get as it hit your cheek now and again.

As STMicroelectronics sees it, however, the existing way of judging proximity leaves something to be desired. Right now, it’s a simple process of sending light out and measuring how much gets reflected back, a method that can depend on a lot of factors besides proximity. How often such sensors fail isn’t clear to me, but ST has come forward with a new approach: using time of flight to measure how long it takes the light (regardless of the quantity of light) to make a round trip.

They do this by co-packaging an IR LED emitter, an “ultra-fast” light detector, and the circuitry needed to calculate the distance from the measurements. It also contains a wide-dynamic-range ambient light sensor. 

Is all of that needed just to keep your phone from getting too cheeky? Well, it’s clear that that’s simply the “marquee” function they address. On the assumption that you can do a lot more interesting stuff if you can measure with reasonable accuracy how far away something is (as opposed to a more binary near/far assessment), they’re betting that phone makers will want to include it so that both they and enterprising apps writers will come up with all kinds of interesting new things to do. It changes the class of apps it can manage from digital to analog (in the sense I defined them when discussing accelerometer applications).

Used in such other applications, they’re targeting a distance range of up to 100 mm (about 4 inches for those of us that grew up with non-metric intuitive visualization). They think it will work beyond that, but they’re not committing to that at this time.

You can find more info in their release.

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
Nov 30, 2022
By Joe Davis Sponsored by France's ElectroniqueS magazine, the Electrons d'Or Award program identifies the most innovative products of the… ...
Nov 29, 2022
Smart manufacturing '“ the use of nascent technology within the industrial Internet of things (IIoT) to address traditional manufacturing challenges '“ is leading a supply chain revolution, resulting in smart, connected, and intelligent environments, capable of self-operati...
Nov 22, 2022
Learn how analog and mixed-signal (AMS) verification technology, which we developed as part of DARPA's POSH and ERI programs, emulates analog designs. The post What's Driving the World's First Analog and Mixed-Signal Emulation Technology? appeared first on From Silicon To So...
Nov 18, 2022
This bodacious beauty is better equipped than my car, with 360-degree collision avoidance sensors, party lights, and a backup camera, to name but a few....

featured video

How to Harness the Massive Amounts of Design Data Generated with Every Project

Sponsored by Cadence Design Systems

Long gone are the days where engineers imported text-based reports into spreadsheets and sorted the columns to extract useful information. Introducing the Cadence Joint Enterprise Data and AI (JedAI) platform created from the ground up for EDA data such as waveforms, workflows, RTL netlists, and more. Using Cadence JedAI, engineering teams can visualize the data and trends and implement practical design strategies across the entire SoC design for improved productivity and quality of results.

Learn More

featured paper

How SHP in plastic packaging addresses 3 key space application design challenges

Sponsored by Texas Instruments

TI’s SHP space-qualification level provides higher thermal efficiency, a smaller footprint and increased bandwidth compared to traditional ceramic packaging. The common package and pinout between the industrial- and space-grade versions enable you to get the newest technologies into your space hardware designs as soon as the commercial-grade device is sampling, because all prototyping work on the commercial product translates directly to a drop-in space-qualified SHP product.

Click to read more

featured chalk talk

Series Five Product Introduction

Sponsored by Mouser Electronics and Amphenol Aerospace

Size and weight are critical design considerations when it comes to military and aerospace applications. One way to minimize weight and size in these kinds of designs is to take a closer look at your choice of connectors. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Anthony Annunziata from Amphenol Aerospace about the series five next generation connectors from Amphenol Aerospace. They investigate the size and weight advantages that these connectors bring to military and aerospace applications and how you can get started using the series five in your next design.

Click here for more information about Amphenol Aerospace Series Five Black Zinc-Nickel Circular Connectors