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PERiscopic COnsumer Stereo DEpth CAMera (PERCOSDECAM)

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PERCOSDECAM (PERiscopic COnsumer Stereo DEpth CAMera (PERCOSDECAM))

Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2021-02-28

The main objective of this project is to develop the most disruptive cameras for AR, MR, VR and depth estimation applications for mobile phones, tablets and laptop computers: specifically, an embedded camera module, a highly competitive device aiming towards disruptive market-shares and global leadership. These devices will offer the same precision at 5 meters as competing cameras at 1 meter (the Structured Light [SL] cameras used in iPhone-X and TOF [Time of Flight] cameras), will increase drastically the resolution of the depth map (from 40 Kpixels to 1,45 Mpixels), consuming 7 times less power than the second closest competitor. Additionally, the costs of the BOM (Bill of Material) for the camera will be reduced by more than 50% and will provide realtime-3Dvideo and depth maps (vs. a few frames/second). This, will help to reduce the overall size of the device, increasing the heat dissipation, enabling to have as a result a more robust camera with enhanced functionalities.
As secondary objectives, linked to the accomplishment of the main objective, is to disrupt into established value-chains of products including the aforementioned type of camera (mobile telephony, tablets and laptops) accelerating development of ideas into business-driven new products (AR depth cameras), making camera module manufacturing competitive in Europe (due to the automation introduced by the alignment solution to be developed in this project)
The work performed in the first 6 months was focused on developing the most competitive cameras for AR, MR, VR and depth estimation applications for mobile phones, tablets and laptop computers. Given the traction these devices have had during the last years, and the boost of remote communications as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The specific relevant objectives for the project for the current report – and the necessary work (tasks, deliverables and milestones) – were focused mainly in demonstrating design and manufacturing feasibility, and obtaining the first set of prototypes.
To reach these goals, photonicSENS has defined the product required specifications. Once defined, the design of the different components was defined and assembled conforming a camera prototype. This prototype was tested and its results were satisfactory, reaching the expected deadlines.

The work performed during this second six-month period has focused on defining the design parameters and ensuring the manufacturability of the components defining the product, including molds, alignment requirements and design of the components. The significance and importance of the work performed during this second six-month period can be measured by the rate of completion of the project, reaching an impressive 90% of the activities in WP2 and of the commitments from the coordinating partner. Of course, this development does not come for free, and the amount of work is aligned with the amount of the budget spent y the coordinating partner (89,87%). In spite of the diverse set of circumstances that have affected one of our partners, impeding it from collaborating during the first year on the project (COVID-19 pandemic, the opening of a new manufacturing plant in eastern Europe, and its acquisition), the remaining two companies of the consortium have managed to carry their weight and to move ahead with the project, avoiding getting stuck and jeopardizing the project.
The progress of the project is aligned with the expenses incurred. Thus, the remaining 10,13% of the budget of the coordinating partner of the project is aligned with the remaining tasks. The partner which had a slow start in the project during its first year is accelerating the speed and amount of resources assigned to the project, and this slow start did not cause any blockage situation whatsoever, this partner has apologized and has shown its commitment to the consortium members and the project, has already accelerated the work on its pending tasks, for which it will benefit from the work made by the other two partners aimed to answer most of the foreseeable questions that they will have to face in terms of parameters and tolerances, among others.
As a summary on the results of this project after this second six-month period, the design parameters of the UBL and the AHL have been identified, and information for the tooling design and characterization for the UBL, as well as for the development of the alignment machines has been identified, clearing the path for a speedy recovery of the pending tasks. The AHL has been successfully prototyped, and several cameras with different upper barrels and AHLs have been prototyped.
The first proposed design was beyond the state-of-the-art. The work put into these first 6 months has pushed the technological edge forward, proving this first design to be functional and feasible. Due to its manufacturing associated costs, this approach has been shelved by now, but we consider it a significant achievement with the potential to have a sustainable impact not only in depth cameras, but potentially also in image cameras, as the current trends, pioneered by companies like Huawei and other leaders go in the direction of folded optics designs to include zoom-cameras in mobile phones. We can affirm that our design achieves the same results through than the competitive existing solutions with a much simpler design, implying lower costs, easier manufacturing, making it very worth considering for future developments.
The reasons why we believe to have that impact potential are based in technology facts. Our strongest competitive advantages are: cost (well below any competitor), power consumption (dividing by 7 the power used by second competitor), lateral resolution (1.4 vs. 0.04 Mpixels) and the fact that using our technology, by combining the image from our camera for short-distances (below 1 meter) and the image of the other camera for long distances eliminates the need for Autofocus in the main camera (with fixed-focus hyperfocal design points for images beyond 1 meter), eliminating VCMs, the second largest cause of malfunctions after broken displays. These are competitive advantages too good to pass.
On the impacts in terms of project execution, the project is on track, and the value proposition has not been diminished. Even more, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of cameras to communicate with relatives and for remote working has increased, proving the value of using images for communication purposes. These increase of use of cameras confirm an important value proposition of this camera and reinforces our commitment to making it a reality.
Finally, to give this impact some numbers in terms of growth and tangible results, the AR camera resulting from this project is estimated to enable a payback period of a year after the completion of the project. On the labor side, the impact for PhotonicSens is noticeable as well: because the increase on volume and sales of the existing products in portfolio, together with the one estimated from the camera proposed in this project, is estimated to imply a growth to around 150 people by 2023, as well as an additional estimation of 100 direct jobs in manufacturing. Last, but not least, the potential economic impact is estimated to be of $1,27 billion revenue for Photonicsens by 2023, $ 90 million for one of our technology partners and $67 million for another of the technology partners.
Camera demo