Latest in Gear

Image credit: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU via Getty Images

Sony's new image sensors will make cameras smarter with onboard AI

They'll be able to handle "light" AI duties like recognizing objects.
329 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
A Sony logo is displayed near the company's headquarters in Tokyo on May 13, 2020. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU via Getty Images

Sponsored Links

For years, the evolution of image sensors has been about packing in more pixels and slimming down their size to fit into smaller devices. Now, they're about to get smart. Today, Sony is unveiling the IMX500 and IMX501, two 12.3-megapixel sensors with onboard AI processing chips. They'll be able to handle "light" machine learning tasks — like recognizing if a stray dog or cat enters your backyard — on their own, without sending any video to the cloud or another system. Instead, they can deliver anonymous metadata pings to alert you about what they've seen.

Sony AI Image Sensor
Sony

This may not sound very exciting as first, but as Mark Hanson, Sony's VP of Technology and Business Innovation told me, it could make cameras significantly more useful. For one, it's a way to ensure better privacy, since the sensors can handle AI tasks entirely on-device. That's something that could be particularly useful in Europe, where the new GDPR guidelines severely limit how organizations can use surveillance video. The closer data can stay to their source device, the better. 

Onboard AI also means you can get information processed in real-time. A camera at the front of a store could count the number of people entering, and even alert security if someone isn't wearing a face mask (a major health risk as we're still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic). Another camera could keep track of item stock on store shelves, while others could monitor the flow of foot traffic to determine shopping "hot spots."

To be clear, these image sensors won't replace the work of sophisticated cloud-based machine learning tools, which can go far beyond just recognizing objects. But they're a step towards a future where cameras can function more like self-contained computers.

And they can also assist more complex computer vision systems. For example, in a cashier-less store like Amazon's, where tons of video data is being captured and processed by a slew of cameras, Sony's sensors could detect exactly where customers are located. If nobody is by the milk aisle, there's no reason to flip those 3D cameras on, right?

Hanson tells us samples for the IMX500 have already been sent out to Sony's partners, while the IMX501, which is packaged to fit onto devices like smart boards, will start shipping in June. We can expect to see devices using the new hardware by the end of the year and throughout 2021. 

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
329 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Cowboy upgrades its e-bike with a carbon belt and puncture-resistant tires

Cowboy upgrades its e-bike with a carbon belt and puncture-resistant tires

View
Inside Indonesia's fight to save its most important soil

Inside Indonesia's fight to save its most important soil

View
Kitty Hawk moves on from its original flying car project

Kitty Hawk moves on from its original flying car project

View
Hulu will cut off older Roku players after June 24th

Hulu will cut off older Roku players after June 24th

View
'Project Cars 3' trailer has some sim racing fans worried

'Project Cars 3' trailer has some sim racing fans worried

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr