Sony, the biggest maker of camera chips used in smartphones, is boosting production of next-generation 3D sensors after getting interest from customers including Apple.
According to Satoshi Yoshihara, head of Sony’s sensor division, the chips will power front- and rear-facing 3D cameras of models from several smartphone makers in 2019, with Sony kicking off mass production in late summer to meet demand. Speaking to Bloomberg, Yoshihara declined to provide sales or production targets, but said the 3D business is already operating profitably and will make an impact on earnings from the fiscal year starting in April.
Sony uses a method called ‘time of flight’ that sends out invisible laser pulses and measures how long they take to bounce back, which he said creates more detailed 3D models and works at distances of five meters. Other uses include mobile games, which could involve creating virtual characters that interact with and navigate real-world environments, or ones that use hand gestures for control.
Sony has started providing software toolkits to outside developers so they can experiment with the chips and create apps that generate models of faces for communication or virtual objects for online shopping.
Sony controls about half of the camera chip market and supplies customers including Apple, Alphabet Inc. and Samsung Electronics. Huawei Technologies are also said to employ Sony’s 3D cameras in next generation models.