Qualcomm Spectra 2nd Generation Announced for 2018 Phone Cameras – Better Noise Reduction & EIS, Iris Scanning, AR
One of the most important features of a smartphone for many users is the camera, and the brain of those cameras is the Image Signal Processor (ISP). The ISP plays a critical role in image quality, autofocus speed, and almost every part of camera performance. Today, Qualcomm is announcing their next leap forward in the extended reality, virtual reality, and augmented reality markets, with the Qualcomm Spectra 2nd Generation ISP.
Qualcomm hopes to make further inroads into the Extended Reality (XR) markets with the Qualcomm Spectra 2nd Generation ISP, building upon their success with the Snapdragon 835 Head Mounted Display (HMD) platforms. In addition to the existing single camera, dual camera bayer+monochromatic (Qualcomm Clear Sight), and dual camera dual focal length configurations that Qualcomm’s ISPs currently support, they will be baking in native support for iris scanning and depth-sensing capabilities in their upcoming processors. This native support for world mapping will allow them to more tightly integrate environment sensing technologies into future HMD devices.
While infrared-based depth-sensing technologies like Project Tango are phenomenal at mapping environments, Qualcomm recognizes that the extra IR sensors increase the cost to build the device, and likely will not be an option for mid-range and entry-level devices in the near future, so they are also integrating a parallax-based depth-sensing system that works much like our eyes. This system will enable many dual camera devices to achieve competitive depth-sensing performance, at a substantially lower cost.
Support for IR sensors will enable native hardware-level support for iris scanning authentication methods. Qualcomm claims that in their preferred configuration, authentication times are already below 40 ms with low-power iris scanning, which can be used even with many sunglasses. While the hardware will support it, just like when fingerprint scanning first launched on Android, it will be up to OEMs to integrate the software support for it until Google is ready to launch an Android-wide standard interface, which we could be waiting until late 2018 for, if not longer. In addition to iris scanning, the Qualcomm Spectra 2nd Generation ISP will allow devices to leverage their depth mapping capabilities for facial scanning as another potential liveness security measure, which could potentially see applications for further authentication in dedicated devices.
The Qualcomm Spectra 2nd Generation ISP’s depth sensing capabilities will enable immersive VR/AR/XR experiences, by utilizing their efficient depth-sensing technology to have sub-16 ms motion to photon latency for head and body tracking, with 6 degrees of freedom, while doing Simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM) to model the environment around the user, and track the user’s position. Sub-16 ms latency allows for single frame responsiveness at 60 Hz, which is an important step in the direction that is needed for virtual reality. Hopefully, we will see the latency times continue to decrease as frame rates increase for VR/AR/XR, as responsiveness is crucial for a good experience with head mounted displays.
Qualcomm also will be integrating support for improved multi-frame noise reduction in the Qualcomm Spectra 2nd Generation ISP, much like what’s seen in the Google Pixel’s HDR+ and in the Xiaomi Mi Note 2‘s Handheld Twilight Mode. The company is bringing motion compensated temporal filtering (MCTF) and improved EIS to their videos, which will further improve video quality.
The Qualcomm Spectra 2nd Generation ISP is expected to be a part of Qualcomm’s next flagship Snapdragon Mobile Platform (the rumored Qualcomm Snapdragon 845), and will likely be seen in flagship phones next year.
What do you think of the improvements coming to the Spectra 2nd Gen? Sound off in the comments!