Sony has developed a back-illuminated time-of-flight (ToF) image sensor with a 10µm pixel pitch, the industry’s smallest. This accomplishment was made possibly combining the ToF image sensor technology of Softkinetic and Sony’s back-illuminated CMOS image sensor technology. With ToF technology, the distance to an object is measured by the time it takes for light from a light source to reach the object and reflect back to the sensor. ToF image sensors detect distance information for every pixel, resulting in highly accurate depth maps.
Accuracy can be enhanced even further by ensuring that the reflected light is efficiently received and that the processing required to measure distance is executed at a high frame rate. Additionally, power consumption can be reduced by efficiently collecting and processing the reflected light; the more efficient, the less light source power is needed. By delivering highly accurate depth-sensing performance in a compact package with low power consumption, the new sensor will help expand the range of applications for ToF image sensors. Research results on the sensor were made public at the 2017 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits on June 5, 2017 in Kyoto, Japan.