LinX Computational Imaging Ltd., headquartered in Caesarea, Israel, a pioneer in the development of multi-aperture imaging technologies for mobile apps and smartcams, was acquired by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL).
According to The Wall Street Journal, the companies had been discussing an acquisition price of about $20 million.
In February, Apple CEO Tim Cook had visited Israel to inaugurate its new R&D Center in Herzliya, and meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. At that time Cook said that he and his staff “have an enormous admiration for Israel, not just as an important ally for the US, but as a place to do business.”
In June 2014 LinX had announced the successful development of its miniature multi-aperture cameras designed for mobile devices. The camera modules are nearly half the height of a standard mobile camera and are capable of creating stunning color images and high accuracy depth maps.
LinX Imaging was founded in 2008 by CEO Ziv Attar, an Optics engineer and camera technology expert, who also serves as CEO and chief optical designer at OpEra. Until 2007, Attar had served for nearly 5 years as senior optics and system specialist at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, whose know-how is embedded in almost all of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) systems in operation today. Ziv Attar has a B.Sc. Optical Engineering degree from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.
Andrey Tovchigrechko is a co-founder of LinX and serves as its Vice President of Software since 2011. Tovchigrechko is an algorithm development consultant and image processing expert with 12 years of experience in mobile imaging. He served as Senior Image Processing Engineer at Samsung form 2003 to 2007. Tovchigrechko is a graduate of Weizmann Instutiute of Science, and has a M.Sc. degree from Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU).
The image quality of mobile cameras appeared to have reached a dead end. Device makers are striving to differentiate themselves relying on the development of advanced imaging capabilities, but the pixel size race seemed to have peaked, and next generation cameras have not yet reveal sufficiently dramatic improvements. LinX claims that its cameras revolutionize mobile photography and broaden the usability span and user experience.
Not far behind however, in March, Tel Aviv University’s (TAU) Ramot Momentum Fund had also unveiled its eye-catching ‘Unispectral’ SmartCam Technology, which provides hyperspectral imaging capabilities to any camera. Development of that breakthrough technology is being funded by India’s giant Tata Group, Singapore’s $177 billion Temasek Holdings, and SanDisk Corporation (NasdaqGS: SNDK).
According to LinX, its engineers have solved all problems associated with combining multiple images captured from different points in space, such as registration errors and occlusion related artifacts, which are seen on competing technologies.
LinX cameras are artifact-free, even when objects appear at a very short range. During the registration process between images, the LinX software extracts very accurate depth information for each pixel and creates a depth map. The software creates true depth information on high contrast objects and on near flat surfaces, such as walls, which are traditionally considered difficult for passive stereo systems. The accuracy and resolution of details in distance maps, created the opportunity to use the suggested algorithms for 3D reconstruction.
LinX has developed a variety of products ranging from arrays of two, three, and four cameras in various configurations and sizes, some with autofocus and others without. The technology is ready for integration into the current generation of mobile devices.
Based on a side-by-side comparison of a single RGB (Bayer) camera and a LinX camera consisting of two smaller cameras, while keeping the total pixel count fixed, LinX provides the following advantages when compared with traditional mobile photography:
- A larger sensor requires a longer lens. Therefore, by replacing one large sensor, with two or more smaller ones, LinX reduces the height of its device by a factor of 1.4 to 2.
- By using a monochrome sensor, sensitivity to light increases by a factor of 3.
- Noise levels are dramatically lower.
- The effective array camera resolution is similar to the single aperture camera in high light.
- Performance and image quality in low light are extraordinary.
- LinX technology allows a fast exposure at indoor standard lighting conditions of 100-200 lux. which assures crisp images free from motion blur.
- The multi-aperture camera creates a real-time, high-quality distance map.
Multi-aperture LinX technology will now enhance Apple’s real-time applications, incorporating the simultaneous use and integration of images and distance maps, with advanced functionality such as:
- Automatic background removal
- High-quality control of autofocus in video mode when one of the cameras is equipped with autofocus (range finder camera)
- Augmented reality
- 3D object modeling
- Distance and Sizing of objects
- Biometric 3D face recognition