SuperResolution added to world’s smallest camera module for medical imaging

SuperResolution added to world’s smallest camera module for medical imaging

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

OmniVision Technologies has added a ‘super resolution’ algorithm to improve the quality of its wafer scale camera chip in medical applications.  

This eliminates the conflict between camera size and resolution found in current medical imaging systems. The fully packaged backside-illuminated camera chip measures 0.65mm x 0.65mm, with a z-height of just 1.158mm, making it suitable for endoscopes and catheters, but this limits the resolution of the images.

Using the SuperResolution algorithm developed by Almalence for smart phone cameras to OmniVision’s OVM6948 CameraCubeChip improves the resolution of the tiny chip to 300 x300, up 50 percent, and boosting the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) by up to 8dB for a total of about 42dB. These increases would otherwise double the image sensor and camera size, due to the required increase in pixel count.

The algorithm increases the sensor’s effective resolution by not only making the image look sharper and smoother, but also reconstructing more details, as if it were captured with a higher resolution sensor. Additionally, the algorithm’s computational load is optimized to run on any major SoC or DSP, leaving plenty of headroom for other processing tasks.

European market research firm Yole Développement expects a 27 percent compound growth between 2019 and 2025 for CMOS image sensors for disposable endoscopes, reaching $241m.

“This market is being pushed by the addition of video and the shift toward small-diameter applications needing higher image resolutions. Additionally, medical trends are favoring single-use devices, including cross-contamination issues and strong regulations stemming from endoscope disinfection matters,” said Jérôme Mouly, team lead analyst for sensing at Yole. “The ramp up is starting this year and will continue in the coming years as regulators enforce the use of disposable endoscopes for certain procedures, such as bronchoscopy, laryngoscopy and urology.”

The OVM6948 camera module integrates OmniVision’s OV6948 image sensor, which holds the Guinness World Record for “The Smallest Image Sensor Commercially Available” with its size of 0.575mm x 0.575mm. Because the optics are fabricated at the wafer level, they can be bonded to the image sensor to form a camera module that is 1.158mm high. This enables integration into an endoscope or catheter with a diameter of less than 2.0mm, allowing it to either reach deeper into the human anatomy or offer a larger array of endoscopic tools within its working channel.

“Until now, medical device designers were forced to make a tradeoff between size and resolution,” said Tehzeeb Gunja, director of medical marketing at OmniVision. “The dimensions of camera modules and their integrated image sensors are limited by the endoscope’s outer diameter. Additionally, to obtain a sufficiently bright image while limiting the heat dissipation of the LEDs at the distal tip, medical image sensors must have a relatively large pixel size. Almalence’s SuperResolution algorithm enhances the sensor’s resolution and image quality, enabling doctors and nurses to view its captured images on high-definition monitors and tablets.”

“The vast majority of high-end smartphones on the market today use our SuperResolution algorithm because we produce the greatest image quality within the limited space available, by reconstructing details beyond the physical limits of a sensor’s pixel count,” said Eugene Panich, CEO of Almalence Inc. “We have expanded our longstanding partnership with OmniVision in mobile imaging to bring our industry-leading algorithm to medical designers, enabling them to create small-diameter endoscopes with greater detail and better image quality than the image sensor would otherwise be capable of producing.”

OmniVision’s OVM6948 CameraCubeChip module is available now for sampling and mass production, and Almalence is currently licensing its SuperResolution algorithm, which is pre-tuned to perform optimally with the OVM6948. The Almalence license also includes expert tuning services for any OmniVision medical image sensor in combination with any lens available on the market—at every stage of development, from initial design to product launch. Almalence also provides a software development kit with its license, featuring numerous parameter APIs for additional tuning by medical device designers.

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