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Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Image Sensor Chip, Method of Operating the Same, and System Including the Image Sensor Chip", for Approval

January 29, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- From Washington, D.C., VerticalNews journalists report that a patent application by the inventors KIM, Tae Chan (Yongin-si, KR); KONG, Hae Kyoung (Yongin-si, KR), filed on March 15, 2013, was made available online on January 16, 2014.

No assignee for this patent application has been made.

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Example embodiments relate to image sensor chips. More particularly, example embodiments relate to a method of obtaining image data, based on a pixel signal output from one of a depth sensor pixel, and a motion sensor pixel included in the image sensor chip, and devices using the method.

"Complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors are solid-state image sensing devices that use a CMOS. The CMOS image sensors are manufactured at low costs, compared to charge coupled device (CCD) image sensors which include high-voltage analog circuits, and consume less power because of their relatively small size. As performance of the CMOS image sensors has improved, the CMOS image sensors are widely used. For example, the CMOS image sensors are used in various home appliances and portable devices, such as smart phones and digital cameras.

"In mobile devices, attempts are being made to reduce a power consumption of CMOS image sensors. Since power consumption and performance have a trade-off, it is necessary to reduce the power consumption of CMOS image sensors as much as possible, without reducing the performance."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "According to an aspect of the exemplary embodiments, there is provided a method of operating an image sensor chip which comprises a motion sensor pixel sensing a motion of an object and a depth sensor pixel, the method comprising activating either the depth sensor pixel or the motion sensor pixel according to a mode selection signal, and processing a pixel signal output by either the activated depth sensor pixel or the activated motion sensor pixel.

"According to an embodiment, the method may further include, before the activating either the depth sensor pixel or the motion sensor pixel, activating the motion sensor pixel as default, and changing a level of the mode selection signal, based on a pixel signal output from the default activated motion sensor pixel. According to an embodiment, the changing the level of the mode selection signal may include changing the level of the mode selection signal when data generated by a result of a processing of the pixel signal output from the default activated motion sensor pixel is consistent with reference data.

"According to another embodiment, the method may further include analyzing a user input, and generating the mode selection signal according to the analyzed result of the user input. According to an embodiment, the motion sensor pixel may be a dynamic vision sensor (DVS) pixel, and the depth sensor pixel may be a time-of-flight (TOF) sensor pixel obtaining depth information between the object and the image sensor chip according to a TOF method.

"According to another aspect of the exemplary embodiment, there is provided a method of operating an image sensor chip that comprises a motion sensor pixel capable of sensing a motion of an object and a depth sensor pixel, the method comprising activating the motion sensor pixel, determining whether to activate the depth sensor pixel, according to a mode selection signal, and processing a pixel signal output by either the motion sensor pixel or the depth sensor pixel, based on a result of the determination and the mode selection signal.

"According to an embodiment, the processing of the pixel signal may comprise processing the pixel signal output by the depth sensor pixel when the depth sensor pixel is activated, and processing the pixel signal output by the motion sensor pixel when the depth sensor pixel is deactivated. According to an embodiment, the motion sensor pixel may be a DVS pixel, and the depth sensor pixel may be a TOF sensor pixel obtaining depth information between the object and the image sensor chip according to a time-of-flight (TOF) method.

"According to another aspect of the exemplary embodiments, there is provided an image sensor chip, the image sensor chip which includes a pixel array including a depth sensor pixel group comprising a plurality of depth sensor pixels and a motion sensor pixel group which includes a plurality of motion sensor pixels, a control circuit which is configured to activate either the depth sensor pixel group or the motion sensor pixel group according to a mode selection signal, and a pixel signal processing circuit which is configured to process pixel signals output by either the activated depth sensor pixel group or the activated motion sensor pixel group. According to an embodiment, the image sensor chip may further comprise a motion sensor pixel enable controller which is configured to control power, which is supplied to the motion sensor pixel group, under a control of the control circuit.

"According to an embodiment, each of the plurality of motion sensor pixels may be a DVS pixel. The pixel signal processing circuit may include a row address event representation (AER) which is configured to process at least one of a plurality of event signals generated by the plurality of motion sensor pixels, and a column AER which is configured to process at least one other of the plurality of event signals generated by the plurality of motion sensor pixels. The row AER may be arranged on an opposite side of a row driver for activating the plurality of depth sensor pixels.

"According to an embodiment, the row AER may be arranged on a same side as a row driver for activating the plurality of depth sensor pixels. The motion sensor pixel group and the depth sensor pixel group may be separately arranged from each other.

"According to another embodiment, each of the plurality of motion sensor pixels may be disposed between the depth sensor pixels. According to another embodiment, the plurality of motion sensor pixels may be disposed on edges of the depth sensor pixel group. The plurality of motion sensor pixels may alternate with the plurality of depth sensor pixels in a row direction. The plurality of motion sensor pixels may alternate with the plurality of depth sensor pixels in a column direction.

"According to an embodiment, a size of each of the plurality of motion sensor pixels may be different from a size of each of the plurality of depth sensor pixels. According to an embodiment, a motion sensor pixel and a depth sensor pixel having an identical column address, from among the plurality of motion sensor pixels and the plurality of depth sensor pixels, may share at least one signal line.

"According to an embodiment, the pixel signal processing circuit may comprise a motion sensor pixel signal processing circuit which is configured to process pixel signals output from the motion sensor pixel group, and a depth sensor pixel signal processing circuit which is configured to processes pixel signals output by the depth sensor pixel group. According to an embodiment, the pixel signal processing circuit may further comprise an output selection circuit which is configured to select either an output of the motion sensor pixel signal processing circuit or an output of the depth sensor pixel signal processing circuit.

"According to another aspect of the exemplary embodiments, there is provided a system on chip (SoC) comprising the image sensor chip, an image signal processor (ISP) which is configured to process image data output by the image sensor chip, and a central processing unit (CPU) which is configured to receive processed image data from the ISP and generates a mode selection signal based on the processed image data.

"According to another aspect of the exemplary embodiments, there is provided an image sensor chip comprising a pixel array including a depth sensor pixel and a motion sensor pixel, and an output selection circuit which is configured to select either a signal received from the depth sensor pixel or a signal received from the motion sensor pixel according to a mode selection signal and outputs the selected signal.

"According to an embodiment, the motion sensor pixel may be a DVS pixel, and the depth sensor pixel may be a TOF sensor pixel. The output selection circuit may comprise a multiplexer.

"According to another aspect of the exemplary embodiments, the is provided an image processing system including an image sensor which generates image data corresponding to either depth information from at least one depth sensor pixel or motion information from at least one motion sensor pixel and transmits the image data, an image signal processor (ISP) which is configured to receive and process the image data from the image sensor, and transmit the processed image data, and a display unit which is configured to receive the processed image data, and display the processed image data.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"Exemplary embodiments will be more clearly understood from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

"FIG. 1 is a block diagram of an image processing system according to the exemplary embodiments;

"FIG. 2 is a block diagram of an embodiment of an image sensor included in the image processing system of FIG. 1;

"FIG. 3 is a block diagram of an image sensor including an embodiment of a pixel signal processing circuit illustrated in FIG. 2;

"FIG. 4 illustrates an embodiment of a pixel array illustrated in FIG. 2;

"FIG. 5 illustrates other embodiment of the pixel array illustrated in FIG. 2;

"FIG. 6 illustrates another embodiment of the pixel array illustrated in FIG. 2;

"FIG. 7 illustrates still another embodiment of the pixel array illustrated in FIG. 2;

"FIG. 8 illustrates still another embodiment of a pixel array illustrated in FIG. 2;

"FIG. 9 is a circuit diagram of an embodiment of wirings of the pixel array illustrated in FIG. 4;

"FIG. 10 is a circuit diagram of other embodiment of wirings of the pixel array illustrated in FIG. 4;

"FIG. 11 is a circuit diagram of an embodiment of a motion sensor pixel illustrated in FIG. 9 or 10;

"FIG. 12A is a circuit diagram of an embodiment of a depth sensor pixel illustrated in FIG. 9 or 10;

"FIG. 12B is a circuit diagram of other embodiment of the depth sensor pixel illustrated in FIG. 9 or 10;

"FIG. 13 is a block diagram of other embodiment of the image sensor included in the image processing system of FIG. 1;

"FIG. 14 is a block diagram of another embodiment of the image sensor included in the image processing system of FIG. 1;

"FIG. 15 is a block diagram of still another embodiment of the image sensor included in the image processing system of FIG. 1;

"FIG. 16 is a block diagram of an image sensor including other embodiment of the pixel signal processing circuit illustrated in FIG. 2;

"FIG. 17 is a block diagram of an image sensor including another embodiment of the pixel signal processing circuit illustrated in FIG. 2;

"FIG. 18 is a block diagram of a modification of a pixel signal processing circuit illustrated in FIG. 17;

"FIG. 19 is a block diagram of an image sensor including another embodiment of the pixel signal processing circuit illustrated in FIG. 2;

"FIG. 20 is a block diagram of an image sensor including an embodiment of a pixel signal processing circuit illustrated in FIG. 14;

"FIG. 21 is a block diagram of an image sensor including other embodiment of the pixel signal processing circuit illustrated in FIG. 14;

"FIG. 22 is a block diagram of an image sensor including another embodiment of the pixel signal processing circuit illustrated in FIG. 14;

"FIG. 23 is a block diagram of an image sensor including still another embodiment of the pixel signal processing circuit illustrated in FIG. 14;

"FIG. 24 is a flowchart of a method of operating an image sensor chip, according to an embodiment;

"FIG. 25 is a flowchart of a method of operating an image sensor chip, according to other embodiment;

"FIG. 26 is a flowchart of a method of operating an image sensor chip, according to another embodiment;

"FIG. 27 is a block diagram of an electronic system including the image sensor illustrated in FIG. 1, according to the exemplary embodiments; and

"FIG. 28 is a block diagram of an image processing system including the image sensor illustrated in FIG. 1, according to the exemplary embodiments."

For additional information on this patent application, see: KIM, Tae Chan; KONG, Hae Kyoung. Image Sensor Chip, Method of Operating the Same, and System Including the Image Sensor Chip. Filed March 15, 2013 and posted January 16, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=3827&p=77&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140109.PD.&OS=PD/20140109&RS=PD/20140109

Keywords for this news article include: Patents, Electronics, Signal Processing.

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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