UK-based Plastic Logic and French company ISORG have created what the pair tout as a first in flexible printed electronics: a large area, conformable, organic image sensor printed on plastic. (Source: ISORG and Plastic Logic)
Ann, Good article and very interesting subject on the ISORG's flexible Image sensors. In watching the videos, which the demos were quite impressive, I noticed both the pdf browser and 3D image manipulation were operated with no human contact. I see a plethora of applications being developed within the HMI space because of the hand gesture control opposed to touch. Just wondering if this sensor technology uses capacitive-proximity detection for engaging with the target product? This new HMI tech could be part of CAD 2.0 article Cabe wrote recently. Very nice article indeed!!
Chuck, apps include anything with a camera. When image sensors started being made in CMOS instead of CCDs, that made it possible to include them in laptops (=webcams) and cell phones. When this prototype's process becomes higher-res and high-volume, they can be printed on flexible substrates, which means anything that's small: phones, wristbands, all kinds of places that we haven't thought of yet. Who ever thought years back that we'd have cameras in portable phones?
What's really cool about this technology is there are no boundaries to applications development. In the videos that were presented, several gesture gaming control applications popped in my head. The impressive part about this imaging sensor is the ability to be package into any object because of its flexible - printed circuit attibutes.
I especially appreciate the flexible nature of this technology. 'Wearable' smart devices (i.e. wristband) could become more of a reality with the ability to curve or bend the display surface. I would imagine the flexibility of this display surface would open up many new markets for innovative display applications.
Even if they're not actually Dick Tracy-style, flexible wraparound watches and wristbands are definitely a possible application for this technology, as they are for other printed flex sensor technology. For example, those health-monitoring wristbands that take your temperature, heart rate and other data during exercise. Now they could record image data as well.
What has not been mentioned is the improvments in ruggedness and durability that would come from the circuitry not breaking when flexed a bit. That should open up a realm of applications where previously a display or sensor would have broken during normal use. A flexible image sensor could watch stamping die activity from a much closer viewpoint, for instance.
Interesting comment, William, since making flex circuits that don't break was one of the big challenges in the earlier days of this technology's R&D. I see your point about applications--flex image sensors could be used in many places where traditional rigid image sensors couldn't go before.
Interesting, and note, I'm no optics expert, but doesn't every image sensor need a lens to properly focus in on some field of view? If the sensor is flexible, then doesnt' that make it tougher for the lens to do its job?
Excellent question, edsut. The answer to your first question, "doesn't every image sensor need a lens to properly focus in on some field of view?" is yes, but... A very accurate lens is only needed for taking pictures. We have been trained to think of image sensors as being used in cameras for increasingly sharp, accurate and realistic pictures, especially in machine vision. But in motion sensing, an image sensor such as the Kinect's doesn't have to "see" your gesture very well--it just has to sense the position and direction of your arm or other body movements, aided by a depth sensor for 3D and a tracking chip. Then the motion capture software takes over to decide what your gestures mean. The Kinect lens is small, round and unsophisticated. There's a good Wikipedia article on the subject. Regarding flexible lenses, the human eye has a flexible, curved lens, and some curved Fresnel lenses (used in lighthouses) are flexible. So are intra-ocular lenses implanted in the eye for correcting myopia.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed a surface preparation method to improve joining carbon composites with aluminum, with potentially far-reaching ramifications for high-volume industrial applications.
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