Self-Driving Cars: Our Future as Passengers

No matter how long it takes to fully gain traction, the age of autonomous cars will be hereCar illustration with sensors before we know it. Those in the know see it as the inevitable future of transportation, with vehicles designed as moving living rooms. Given the numerous high-profile companies developing self-driving technologies, as well as the hundreds of other small companies and start-ups dedicating themselves to enabling this industry through connectivity, sensors, and other products (see this chart), we are well on our way to becoming full-time passengers.

And that’s not all bad. As such, people can potentially create a “passenger economy,” identified by Intel as a boon to productivity worth $7 trillion, because everyone will be able to use their travel time more efficiently, working instead of driving, and the industry will spur new markets. Autonomous cars are also seen as a safer choice, with fewer potential accidents than human-controlled cars.

While critics say that the widespread adoption of self-driving cars may cause the loss of jobs (including drivers of taxis, long-haul trucks, and delivery services), which will eventually be true, the new types of jobs created in their wake might make up for that loss. Critics also note that there has already been resistance from potential buyers due to concerns for privacy and security, as well as their hesitation to trust a new technology.

But the question remains, will most customers want a self-driving car? Or do people love driving enough that they will continue to want control of their own vehicle? Mercedes-Benz recently posted an article regarding how autonomous cars will kill the joy of driving, but conceded that perhaps it will be a small price to pay for better safety on the roads.  They also noted that perhaps, as your self-driving car controls itself, you might use your newfound freedom to, ironically (and somewhat hilariously), play a virtual reality car racing game inside of it.

Hyperimaging: Superhero Vision

Out of five big innovations that IBM Research predicts will change our lives in the next five years, one in particular caught our eye, since it might just require some of our precision optics: hyperimaging technology.  Here is an introduction to this burgeoning optoelectronics opportunity.

“More than 99.9 percent of the electromagnetic spectrum cannot be observed by the naked eye. Over the last 100 years, scientists have built instruments that can emit and sense energy at different wavelengths.”                                                                                                                                                       – IBM Research

supermanHyperimaging technology is special because it will help us to see beyond visible light by combining multiple bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to add to what is visible; in other words, it will allow us to see qualities beyond what is normally visible, perhaps into the realm of Superman-type seeing.

Existing tools can illuminate objects and opaque environmental conditions using different frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum such as radio waves, microwaves, millimeter waves, infrared and x-rays, and reflect them back to us. However, these instruments only see across their own specific portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

IBM is building a portable hyperimaging platform that “sees” across numerous portions of the electromagnetic spectrum collectively, to potentially enable a host of practical applications that are part of our everyday experiences.

How will hyperimaging affect our daily lives? In five years, it could aid in identifying the nutritional value of food, detect fraudulent drugs, deepen the augmented reality experience, or help make driving conditions more clear. For example, using millimeter wave imaging (a camera and other sensors), hyperimaging technology could help a car see through fog or detect hazardous and hard-to-see road conditions such as black ice.  Cognitive computing technologies will have the ability to draw conclusions about the hyperimaging data and recognize what might be a cardboard box versus an animal in the road.

In all, it sounds like a promising and cool new technology on the horizon.  Check out IBM’s other predictions for the big five in five innovations here.

Consumer Electronics Show Debuts Camera-Centric Tech

CES Las Vegas LogoIn Las Vegas this week, the International Consumer Electronics Show is taking place, introducing attendees to the most cutting-edge technologies well before they are available to the general public.  This year, the most notable camera-centered products include security cameras with facial recognition and user-friendly medical cameras.

Netatmo Security Camera

Several sources, including CNET and Gizmodo, have published stories on Netatmo’s new security camera with facial recognition.  Its sophisticated software can recognize family members who are at home and provide a video feed that can be viewed remotely, should there be an intruder who is not recognized.

Camera for phone from CellscopeA startup called CellScope exhibiting at the show was featured on NPR; it has built a small ear probe that clips onto the top of your iPhone camera. Instead of rushing to the emergency room, this product allows you to stream footage from inside the ear to an app, so the images can then be examined by a doctor.

Finally, there were two exciting announcements from the show, first that Omnivision and Inuitive Ltd. have created a partnership to develop a reference design for building compact modules that enable 3D imaging in consumer electronics, which will enable advanced features such as augmented reality, 3D scanning, and post processing photography. Second, Jabil Circuit and Pelican Imaging also announced a partnership, this one to develop a high-resolution array camera module using the most advanced digital optics to allow for accurate depth acquisition.

Compact camera modules are essential to new technologies and consumer electronics of the future, because, as evidenced by these examples, when we produce more powerful images with high quality cameras, we can also create useful tools with which to utilize them.

Kasalis Completes Move to New Global Headquarters

Empty clean room

One yet-to-be-filled clean room area.

Our camera module alignment equipment operations are expanding – Kasalis has happily moved to a spacious new office that artfully reflects its innovative spirit. The new space, designed with a creative, industrial edge to foster a highly inspired work environment, is just down the street from our old digs.  We are now at 37 North Ave, and are thrilled to be offering our customers significantly increased capacity and technical support.

We are very pleased to occupy a space that fully reflects our company culture, with interesting angles, bold pops of color, and modern photographic panels. Through careful planning and design, we have created an office that will see us through to the next level of production of our Pixid active alignment systems.  With a huge cleanroom, bright offices, and ample meeting spaces, this office is an ideal match for our needs.

Office image

The hallway from our offices to the clean room.

Kasalis expects further growth in 2014 and looks forward to filling up the open spaces in our new worldwide headquarters building. Here, in our new home, our current and future employees will contribute to our groundbreaking products, strategic approach, and skillful technical assembly.


Smartphone Cameras Win: Point-and-Shoot Cameras See Precipitous Fall

While many have expected a continued downfall in point-and-shoot camera sales, it has become very clear that 2013 was a true turning point for these cameras.  Having experienced plunging sales – global shipments were down 42% in the first five months of 2013 – the leading camera makers are scrambling to streamline product lines and compete with the convenience of smartphone cameras.  Industry giants Canon and Nikon have both revised their sales forecasts significantly for this year – Canon by a full 10 percent.  However, while Canon and Nikon are fortunate to have some sales, since both offer top digital SLR models that don’t compete directly with smartphone cameras, others are not so lucky. One analyst predicted that the Olympus brand might disappear altogether this year, citing its measly 7% market share, failure to generate a profit in any of the past three years, and a grim outlook for the coming year, particularly because the company’s main camera segment is compact cameras, which are in direct competition with smartphones.

Smartphone Cameras Continue to Skyrocket

While traditional camera manufacturers are not thrilled with the growth in smartphone popularity, consumers with increasingly busy lifestyles are grateful for one gadget that is multi-functional.  Sales growth has been steady (see image below).

Graph of IDC Smartphone and Digital Camera salesGiven the clear dominance of the smartphone camera for everyday photos, companies are now pushing the envelope within that market.  Amazon is rumored to have in development a
3D phone
which uses four cameras that track eye and head movements to make the screen appear three dimensional.  Samsung has been developing its ISOCELL technology to improve color and image quality, and recently introduced a 13MP camera.

Better Smartphone Cameras on the Rise

What will we find in our cameras next?  The possibilities are phenomenal.  While at Kasalis our technology drives active alignment to become an essential component in competitive camera modules, others will be developing gesture recognition, 3D imaging, and amazing mobile photography apps.  What do you see happening in your personal camera use?  Is your smartphone taking over?  Either way, the next generation of smartphone camera will undoubtedly be thrilling for photographers on the move, and will probably, in the end, deliver the knock-out blow to the point-and-shoot era.