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Infrared laser projector has three major components, including infrared laser (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser or Edge-Emitting Laser), WLO (Wafer Level Optics), and DOE (Diffractive Optical Elements), explains Joanne Wu, research manager of LEDinside. Current costs of infrared laser projector are around US$3.5 to 6, but is estimated to decrease in the future as the technology advances and supply chain strategy improves, boosting the market demand as the result.
Current solutions for mobile 3D sensing include structured light and time of flight (ToF). iPhone X uses structured light and its dot projector produces more than 30,000 dots of infrared (IR) lights on the face. Then the infrared camera receives the light reflected back from the face to create a 3D facial landscape.
In addition to 3D face sensing, branded smartphone manufacturers also actively integrate 3D sensing with augmented reality (AR). Therefore, LEDinside forecasts that 3D sensor may be incorporated either in front camera or in rear-camera. Manufacturers are expected to use ToF for rear-camera as ToF can scan a larger area with better performance in computing and data processing. Moreover, ToF corresponds to the patent strategies of 3D sensing technology providers.
LEDinside has researched on the supply chain of 3D sensing, and points out that algorithm, emission pattern and patent will be the three key elements for 3D sensing development in the future. VCSEL/EEL wafer and chip foundries (e.g. IQE, VPEC, Win Semi, II-VI, Epistar, HLJ, AWSC) have increased their production capacity. Major VCSEL/EEL packaging companies include Lumentum, Finisar, Princeton Optronics, NeoPhotonics, Philips Photonics, OSRAM OS.
As for different algorithms, PrimeSense, Mantis Vision, Qualcomm/Himax, Intel, etc. now focus on structured light technology, and STMicroelectronics, Google/Infineon/pmd, MicroVision, Orbbec, etc. use ToF technology. Apart from Apple, Samsung and ASUS, Chinese smartphone brands like Xiaomi, Lenovo, Huawei and OPPO, etc all plan to release new phones with 3D sensing,
Smartphone brands are now deploying in the market and seeking for cooperation within the supply chain. But obstacles still remain for future development of 3D sensing market, including obtaining patents, developing third-party application, and increasing the performance-price ratio.
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