Written by LSS co-inventor Dr. Patrick Gill
Human eyes – and perhaps more importantly our brains – offer such a high degree of general-purpose visual object recognition and spatial awareness that it’s difficult to imagine them doing anything but relaying a coherent picture of objects.
But imagine if you were a scallop. You would be spending much of your day on the sea floor filter feeding, all while desperately trying to avoid being nipped by a passing fish. Unfortunately, even a visual system capable of recognizing specific objects might not be enough to save you. In fact, the neural hardware needed to tell a hawk from a handsaw probably doesn’t fit in your compact shell. Still, that hungry rock cod is speeding towards you, so some sort of sensor is clearly needed to warn of its impending approach.
Fortunately, you are equipped with dozens of special-purpose eyes that are almost unique in the animal kingdom. To be sure, your string of eyes employ a reflecting curved mirror, a configuration strikingly similar to an astronomical telescope. They also only have one primary job: to alert you when some hungry creature is approaching.
However, rather than having a brain with enough visual horsepower to recognize the predatory fish, you possess an optical sensor tasked with focusing light onto a few photosensitive cells, which in turn fire off an alarm whenever a dark object a couple of degrees across approaches. Your optical alarm then goes off and you close your shell.
Similar to the scallop, many future smart digital devices will not need to be capable of performing general-purpose object recognition. Think of it this way: much like the scallop, your toaster probably doesn’t really need to see, at least not in the conventional human sense.
Nevertheless, a wireless Internet of Things (IoT) node should be capable of detecting an individual’s approach with minimal hardware, low (compute) power and at a higher resolution than a motion sensor such as a PIR detector. Pairing an IoT node with a lensless smart sensor to detect visual changes could potentially fit this requirement.
Interested in learning more about Rambus lensless smart sensors (LSS)? You can check out our article archive here.