The IoT Era and Why Precision Optics Will Be Key

The IoT Era is Upon Us

As the Internet of Things (IoT) swiftly expands to include more devices, the competition amongst them increases. Many IoT devices depend on computer vision capabilities, which have evolved into the ability to recognize specific objects.  In order to be best at seeing and recognizing things, these devices must have optics of the best quality and clarity. Because of this, we will certainly see increased demand for high quality optics to improve the accuracy and usefulness of these devices.

The world of IoT is predicted to grow steadily, although slower than initially predicted – IoT growth forecasts have been revised from roughly 50 billion down to around 30 billion connected devices by 2020. Within that world, there are numerous technologies that require compact optics, the most obvious being self-driving cars, drones, and security systems. 

The Importance of Optics in IoT Devices

Clearly the quality of your product’s optics can make a huge difference in its effectiveness and delivery of its most advanced capabilities; for example, the safety of a self-driving car can hinge on its ability to “see” its surroundings, and the value of a security system may easily depend on how good the images it collects are, for example, of a culprit.

The OEM companies that strive to impress consumers and wow them with great features will be the first to admit that these questions of product quality and attention to detail are always on their customers’ minds, particularly when they are forking over a large wad of cash for a new IoT gadget. Safety, performance, and accuracy all make a difference. In other words, tiny technologies matter.  Our active alignment technology may perform minute adjustments during assembly of the smallest optics around, but these miniscule details are the ones that create a big difference in the resulting optical performance. The quality of these optics is our top priority for customers because as many of these devices get smaller and thinner, the need for precision optics will only increase.

Celebrating 5 Years of Innovation in Optical Assembly

Optics Innovation 5 Year Anniversary

We recently hosted an office party to mark the 5th anniversary of the founding of Kasalis.  In our celebratory presentation, we reminisced about both the good times and the struggle to get a start-up off the ground and running.  It has been a rollercoaster for these five years: overall, very exciting, but not without its ups and downs. 

In 2012, we released our first products and were able to shake hands with our first customer. Soon we gained distributors and saw market growth. When 2014 rolled around, our numbers were growing so swiftly that we had to move to an office triple the size of our old one. We worked hard, traveled a great deal, and in 2015, our company was acquired by Jabil Circuit. We are now proudly a part of their Jabil Optics division.

Since then, we have kept busy, launching our Pixid 500 systems in 2016 and moving, yet again, to a bigger, more secure office. Now that we are finally settled in, we have time to celebrate! We are looking at a future with growth in some exciting markets, such as augmented reality, gesture recognition, and self-driving vehicles.  So…cheers to five years of rigorous innovation and collaboration at Kasalis.  Here’s to the next five and beyond, and a big thanks to our customers and partners for a great start.

 

 

 

Updated Website, New Pixid 500 Alignment Systems

Pixid 500 Active Alignment System

Pixid 500 Active Alignment System

Our technologies and products are constantly evolving, so it was just about time we updated our website to reflect our latest and greatest offerings.  Kasalis has been working hard on its new alignment systems and software, which are now available and profiled on the updated website at www.kasalis.com.  Most notably, we have a new model in production, the Pixid 500, which is a high volume, automated active alignment system that offers a higher UPH for narrow FOV optics.

There will be more updates to the website and blog shortly, as we are busily designing a new office space.  The excitement in the office is building for our big move to a new, customized, and larger office.  Sales of the Pixid 500, in addition to our signature Pixid 300, are driving growth and increasing technical requirements. We will be incorporating special features into the new office space to accommodate our customers and our newest technologies. Stay tuned.

And please, in the meantime, don’t forget to check out our latest at www.kasalis.com.

Compact Laser Projectors: Creating New Touchscreens

Ultra-compact laser projectors have given us the ability to see, and even use, a touchscreen projected onto a surface.  Also known as a pico projector, pocket projector, mobile projector, handheld projector, or mini beamer, these devices have now advanced from a simple image projection into the realm of the interactive.  Applications for this technology include mobile, gaming, hand gesture recognition, and more.  A few companies driving these technological moves into the future are Lenovo and Cicret.

Lenovo Smart Cast

Lenovo Smart Cast

Lenovo just announced a new smartphone, called Smart Cast, whose pico projector can turn any surface into a touchscreen. Although not the first to do this, the Smart Cast recognizes gestures to control the phone, and can project onto either walls or surfaces.  Using this phone, you could watch videos on a wall or play music on a projected keyboard (pictured). While there are few details available since it was only recently unveiled, it could be a promising device.

Cicret Wristband Projection

Cicret Wristband Projection

Cicret, based in France, has also created a promising product – a wristband with a tiny laser projector that will display your smartphone’s touchscreen on your arm. Using eight proximity sensors, it lets your finger, touching the projected image, control your smartphone from a distance.  Although it is still in development, Cicret aims to complete the final product soon, since its wristband has gained a great deal of momentum from the media and potential investors.

Key to these technologies are optics that provide clear images and accurate sensors.  Using active alignment in the assembly process is just one of the many steps these companies can take to bolster the quality of their products.  We look forward to a future in which these technologies can not only prosper, but also help to improve people’s daily lives through convenience and efficiency.

Emerging Technologies and Active Alignment

In Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, there are several exciting areas in which technologies depend on optical components and camera modules for key functions – functions that likely are dependent upon clarity of images and require active alignment for their optics.  The most prominent are gesture control, virtual reality, augmented reality, and autonomous vehicles.  Of those, the most advanced one on the cycle is gesture control technology; according to Gartner, its “plateau of productivity,” in which mainstream adoption begins to take place, will be reached in 2-5 years.

Gartner's 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies

Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies

Gesture control technology has been embraced by companies that range from small venture-funded start-ups to large corporations looking for the next big thing.  Some companies, such as Samsung, are partnering with these start-ups to incorporate gesture recognition in their next generation models of televisions or other electronics.  Others are forging ahead with their own cutting-edge products; for example, Intel has recently publicized its wide-ranging RealSense Technology, by which a camera in the computer can see in 3D, recognize gestures, and take refocusable photos.

At Kasalis, we are fostering innovation at the intersection of software and optics, providing precision active alignment for optics that can then be used to clearly and accurately translate hand movements, or gestures, into commands that the software can understand.  We are thrilled that camera module and optical quality has become a top priority for the most cutting-edge technologies, and delighted, knowing that our technology plays a key support role in their advancement.

Backup Camera Law and Challenges for Manufacturing

A few weeks ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), after much delay, passed a law requiring backup cameras in cars. It will, first and foremost, improve safety, particularly for the small children who cannot be seen without them and are the victims of thousands of backup accidents annually. Backup cameras have proven very effective in studies, beating out parking sensors and other machine vision methods in effectively preventing crashes.

backup-cam

Photo: NHTSA

We want to know what this all means for car manufacturers and, of course, camera manufacturers (our customers) who will soon be producing and assembling cameras to meet a growing demand as they ramp up to May of 2018, when all new cars will be required to have them.

Already many car manufacturers have included backup cameras as an option or standard in new car models. The NHTSA said there will be requirements governing image size, linger time, response time, durability, and deactivation, but the most important was simply the ability to see in a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. But perhaps there should also be a requirement for camera clarity? Car makers say their main challenge is integrating the screen into the dashboard, but with so many cars already offering a backup camera system, it’s clear they have already found some solutions.

The main challenge we see is that the obligatory 10 by 20 foot visible zone definitely requires a wide angle or fish eye camera module. Therefore, these automotive backup cameras must certainly be assembled using active alignment so that the outside edges of the resulting image are in focus. Otherwise, the safety measure will be compromised.

The good news for us is that we will be working hard on our productsPixid Systems – so that they will produce the best backup cameras possible, with no fuzzy imaging areas around the edges.  We can see now that backup cameras are here to stay; we know that our company is contributing to automotive safety through our work to create rearview cameras with optimized clarity. We hope that more innovation in the automotive world, including the head-up displays that project information onto the windshield, will improve driving safety even further.

 

Action Camera Race: Contenders Revving Their Engines

The race is heating up for action cameras – the waterproof, mountable kind that is found in many an extreme athlete’s hand or, more precisely, on a helmet or surfboard.  While GoPro is the industry leader, competition has become increasingly fierce.  In the past month, Toshiba and Garmin each announced an entry into the race, Toshiba with its Camileo X sports camera, and Garmin with its GPS-equipped VIRB camera.  Sony also unveiled a new, sleeker model of its Action Cam, which now offers GPS.  Other action camera manufacturing companies in the mix include the Contour, Swann, and Drift Innovation.

action camera image of skier

Action camera shot of a skier taken with a helmet-mounted GoPro camera.

These POV cameras, ruggedly built, have gained a spectacular following, due in no small part to the extreme sports enthusiasts who first embraced the GoPro cameras and who never hesitate to show off their bold adventures by sharing the videos with gusto on social media.  Legions of fans were inspired by these first-movers to purchase video camera toys of their own, and thus, a new niche market was born.

What is next for action cameras?  These compact cameras are quickly advancing in terms of image quality, functional technology, and overall capabilities.  It seems GPS is a new feature focus, along with streamlined design and improved photographic performance.  While the cameras are still improving, some think that they might be overcome by a different product all together.  For instance, in this Wired post, one staffer even decided that Google Glass would soon be advanced enough to replace existing action cameras with one worn on the face – a disruptive theory that, while interesting, doesn’t account for the need for a more rugged camera for the athletes that might plunge into the drink or the powder while recording, losing or smashing the Google Glass.

In any case, the customers in this growing segment truly value the quality of their filming and undoubtedly appreciate a camera aligned with precision so they can produce images with excellent clarity.  Action cameras in particular are fantastic candidates for active alignment because of the challenges in obtaining uniform focus in a wide angle application.  Whether you make action cameras, security cameras, or automotive cameras, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about active alignment and its advantages in your camera module alignment, assembly, and testing – it might just differentiate your product from the competition.

Mobile World Congress 2013: Highlights, Camera-Focused App EyeVerify

The MWC just wrapped up in Barcelona, and as the biggest mobile-only event in the world, its audience arrived with high expectations.  News outlets published highly varied impressions of what, exactly, was newsworthy and notable:

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, there was a great deal of disappointment over the dearth of new mobile device breakthroughs.  However, they identified important trends there, including infrastructure innovations for machine-to-machine (or M2M) telematics; tablet apps created by automakers; and low-end mobile phone models to reach new customers.

Wired noted the emerging devices that appear to be a combination of tablets and phones (in some places known as “Phablets”), sized between a typical tablet and mobile phone, and able to make calls.

Finally, in a flurry of coverage, CNET staffers spotted new mobile operating systems from Firefox and Ubuntu, a smartphone screen made of sapphire, and streamlined cyborg-like products.

Of those cyborg-like, human-machine innovations, one caught our eye due to its reliance upon a camera module: EyeVerify, a new security app (in development) that scans your eyeball veins for access to your phone. While previous face recognition apps were fooled with a photo in tests, each person’s “eyeprint” is unique and difficult to imitate.  This next, promising step in mobile authentication will ideally use the front-facing camera so that the screen interface is visible during the scan; however, a 2MP minimum is required (see chart image for smartphone camera pixel trends, below, from this Samsung Report). Since there are many phones in use without a 2MP front-facing camera, the app allows for use of the rear-facing camera as well.  As apps such as EyeVerify continue to grow and prosper, mobile phone manufacturers will recognize the need and customer demand for high quality camera modules in their products.

Camera modules for mobile devices and pixel count trends

Active Alignment: Why it is Essential for Camera Modules in Advanced Electronics

Some may wonder why active alignment is so important to camera module assembly….Well, the primary motivation for manufacturers to push their camera modules into the 21st century by making active alignment standard are recent industry developments such as increasingly thin cell phones, larger aperture cameras, stereoscopic cameras, and vision analysis requirements found in automotive camera applications.

While thinner cell phones can sometimes be outfitted with wafer-level cameras, those cameras are not guaranteed to be aligned correctly due to possible flaws in the wafers, such as a curve (smile) or misaligned sensor.  In addition, these wafer-level cameras only work in extremely low mega-pixel resolutions.  To make a high quality camera that is also thin enough for today’s leanest mobile phones, one must integrate cameras that have been actively aligned in five or six degrees of freedom.

Camera module assembled using active alignment improves focus

The increased use of larger aperture cameras, to enhance performance in low light conditions, also pushes traditionally-assembled camera modules out of contention.  Because the larger aperture lens results in a smaller depth of focus when combined with image sensors with increased resolution and smaller pixels, it is of the utmost importance that the light is properly channeled with a camera assembled using active alignment to garner a focused, high quality image.  Similarly, the trend toward stereoscopic cameras also requires active alignment to best balance the performance of both camera channels appropriately to ensure that the correct tip-tilt angle and centration for each lens generates uniform focus and pointing.

Finally, in camera modules for vehicles, the camera must meet vision analysis requirements so that the vision system can perform object detection as accurately as possible.  Because automotive cameras with machine vision will tell the driver what exactly is near the car, the clearest possible picture is required, and therefore active alignment for the camera module assembly is essential.  Without it, camera manufacturers risk selling modules that produce blurry-edged image results.

Overwhelmingly, industry direction has driven camera modules toward more compact designs with higher megapixels and therefore higher quality images.  Active alignment allows camera modules to be both compact and high quality – and now, with the Kasalis Pixid series, active alignment is available in the most advanced, cost-effective, and compact system on the market.

 

Now Available: The Pixid 300 Series, Groundbreaking Automated Active Alignment and Test System

We are thrilled to announce that our signature alignment and test system, the Pixid 300 Series, is now available to high volume manufacturers of camera modules. Our engineers have truly created an outstanding assembly system that leapfrogs existing standards to meet the future demands of fast-moving high technology industries.

Camera module assembly system Pixid 300 Pro

The groundbreaking Pixid 300 Pro is our signature model.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why is the Pixid system different?  For starters, its innovative design allows for parallel processing of camera modules, so when one is being aligned, another is getting its adhesive. This contributes to our industry-leading cycle time of only 15 seconds, or 240 camera units per hour, all using active alignment for the absolute best image quality possible.  In addition, the yield of usable camera modules is higher using our machines because of our Adaptive IntelligenceTM software, which adjusts the alignment algorithm based on data trends.

Our systems cost significantly less than the industry average, both in terms of equipment and maintenance costs.  Our modular design makes the Pixid series easy to operate and very simple to repair or update.  With customer needs in mind, we have taken a new approach to active alignment and developed this system to meet their challenges head-on, including driving down the cost of active alignment, creating an intuitive, easily operated machine that doesn’t require an engineering degree, and lowering lead times by designing for the rapid configuration of systems.

The Pixid 300 Pro model is a fully automated manufacturing system featuring active alignment, configurable optical testing options, Adaptive IntelligenceTM SPC, and automated adhesive dispense and UV cure.  In addition to the Pixid 300 Pro, the line includes the Pixid 300 Test model, which is intended purely for the high speed, final functional testing of camera modules. The Pixid 300 systems are designed for high volume production of camera modules such as those used in smartphones, cars, webcams, medical imaging, wearable sports cameras, and security cameras.