Qualcomm's 'Clear Sight' to Assist Android OEM's Compete with Apple's hot new iPhone 7 Plus Camera
Earlier today Patently Apple posted a report titled "A Slice of New Data Shows the Black iPhone 7 Plus is this Year's new Rage." In the first 48 hours of taking pre-orders for the iPhone 7, it became clear that a new trend had emerged. Their iPhone 7 Plus sales are outpacing those of their standard iPhone 7 model. If this trend continues it will mark a decisive shift in product sales for Apple. In short, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the iPhone 7 Plus model's bright 1080p display and new dual lens camera have struck a chord with Apple fans. But it has also struck fear into a number of Android OEM's who will no doubt be scrambling to now match Apple's new camera feature including Samsung, the great 'fast follower.' This week Qualcomm sent a message out to Android OEM's to say that they have the solution to assist them compete with the new iPhone 7 Plus dual lens camera system.
Even though there were a few smartphones introduced earlier this year with dual lens cameras from Huawei and Lenovo, Qualcomm now wants to deliver an easier solution to assist all OEM's counter Apple's latest premium camera. Their solution is called 'Clear Sight.' Qualcomm's Senior Marketing Manager wrote about his company's new Clear Sight technologies on the company's blog this week. Here is his message in full:
"Qualcomm Technologies is no stranger to camera innovation, as our solutions have supported a number of smartphones with dual camera technology. Our latest innovation is called Qualcomm Clear Sight, powered by Qualcomm Spectra ISP (Image Signal Processor), and comes straight out of the engineering labs. The results will astound you, as this technology is designed to mimic the attributes of the human eye. Clear Sight is engineered to give your photos improved dynamic range, sharpness, and less noise in low light.
The human eye is a great analogy because your eyes contain cells called "cones" and "rods." Cones are great at capturing color, but require well-lit environments, while rods excel in capturing light in low-light conditions, but don't capture as much color. Clear Sight is designed to mimic cones and rods to give you the best of both worlds, producing an image that has optimal contrast and brightness.
Clear Sight features two cameras, each with its own lens and image sensor. Like your eyes, the lenses have identical focal length (meaning they see the same distance). But each camera has a different image sensor: one color image sensor (to mimic cones), and a separate black and white image sensor (which can absorb more light, to mimic rods).
Technically the color sensor and black and white sensors are the same, except for one tweak: the black and white sensor has had its top layer's color filter removed. Without it, the sensor is unable to capture color, but its ability to capture light increases by 3x. This is especially helpful with low-light environments.
Without the color filter, these black and white photos have much better contrast, and in low light have less noise and improved sharpness. When color information from the other photo is merged, you can get a fantastic image. This is Clear Sight.
Clear Sight technology is supported by the premium Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and 821 processors. Snapdragon processors feature a technology core dedicated to cameras—an Image ISP we call Qualcomm Spectra. The Qualcomm Spectra ISPs inside of these Snapdragon processors are engineered to merge and quickly processes data simultaneously from both cameras to create a high quality photograph, even in very low lighting, by using algorithms to blend the images captured from each of the two cameras intelligently.
Clear Sight consists of a single, fully integrated hardware module that contains two cameras, plus computational low light imaging algorithms that enable Qualcomm Spectra ISPs, designed to take photos at the exact same time and merge the two photos together, instantaneously, with outstanding image quality even in low lighting."
What they haven't figured out is how they'll be able to compete with Apple's new optical zoom at 2x and Digital zoom up to 10x with a simple flick of a user's thumb as noted in the graphic below. Apple's engineering teams including those found in their PrimeSense facilities in Israel are pounding in the patents every month regarding future depth camera features and those relating to future AR and VR applications. And with Apple's CEO highly charged over Augmented Reality, Apple is going to be taking their next-gen cameras to whole new levels and Qualcomm and the Android OEM's are going to have to move very quickly to keep up with Apple's ongoing innovations.
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