Start-up uses nanocrystals for better phone images

Cellphone video upgraded by image sensors

A start-up is using nanotechnology in a new product designed to turn ordinary cellphone photos and video into professional quality images.

InVisage Technologies was among several vendors showing off next generation technologies yesterday at the recent spring Demo conference in Silicon Valley.

InVisage demonstrated new high-performance image sensors, dubbed QuantumFilm, that are made up of quantum dots, or nanocrystals, designed to replace the silicon that has long been used to capture images in cellphones.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to develop next-generation image sensors using silicon; essentially, silicon has hit a wall," said InVisage president and CEO Jess Lee. "The fundamental problem is that silicon cannot capture light efficiently, but until now it has been the only option. QuantumFilm builds on silicon's success in electronics, and elevates its function using new materials that are engineered from the ground up for light capture."

At the Demo show, InVisage executives noted that silicon-based image sensors capture an average of 25% of the light coming in to it. QuantumFilm, however, is designed to capture between 90% and 95% of the light, giving the user sharper images even in less natural or man-made light.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said enabling cellphone users to take sharper images is a smart business move.

"There is a significant number of users for whom the quality of the integrated camera is very important," says Olds. "They are willing to spend more money for a phone with a better camera, which means this development could be a good differentiator for phone vendors."

An increasing number of users, Olds notes, only use mobile phones to take pictures and create videos.

"Just as some cell phone users have ditched their landlines, others are using their cell phones as their only still or video cameras," Olds said. "We see footage from cellphones showing up everywhere from YouTube to the nightly broadcast news. You see people at sporting events and concerts holding up their phones to capture key moments. With higher-quality integrated cameras, we're only going to see more of this."

Meanwhile, Vivox, a provider of voice chat services for online games and virtual worlds, showed off a development platform that it said enables programmers to integrate voice services into online communities, such as social networking sites and online games. The company is looking to use embedded voice chat services to turn social websites into fuller communication hubs.

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Tags technologynanotechnologyinvisage technologiesdemo 2010quantumfilm

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