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Sony to drastically improve AI image processing with its new image sensors

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I feel for professional photographers these days. While they will still no doubt take a better picture than I ever will, newer technologies and more advanced AI options makes it easier for the average non-photographer (Again, like me) to take photos and actually make them look half-decent. The problem with most AI technology though is that they rely on sending images and videos off for analysis to get full use out of them, something which slows down their processing considerably, uses data and compromises your security and can see a heavy drain on a battery.

Sony has announced the world’s first image sensor with integrated AI smarts to combat this. The new IMX500 sensor incorporates both processing power and memory, allowing it to perform machine learning-powered computer vision tasks without extra hardware. The result, will be faster, cheaper, and more secure AI cameras, as Sony revealed in a recent interview with The Verge:

There are some other ways to implement these solutions. But I do not believe they will be anywhere close to as cost-effective as us shipping image sensors in the billions

Sony vice president of business and innovation Mark Hanson

Not only can this improved AI processing easily beat out cloud-based AI image processing but Sony claims their approach is much faster than the onboard image processing that takes place on other chips, reducing the time for a single video frame to be optimised by AI to just 3.1millseconds on average against the hundreds of milliseconds on all other rivals.

Sony are already industry leaders in the image -processing market and can certainly bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the game to make their AI chips more effective. The biggest problem for them right now is that their new image sensor is still a little too bulky for the average tablet or mobile device. Sony will be including them on new digital cameras for now, though is working on making the new image sensors smaller so that it can eventually find its way into the mobile market.

Test samples of the IMX500 have reportedly already started shipping to early customers with prices starting at ¥10,000, with Sony expecting the first products use the image sensor to arrive in the first quarter of 2021.

These days a considerable amount of effort is spent by manufacturers around image processing and if Sony’s efforts can help to drive costs down and make images even better then it will certainly help. No amount of AI can make my images pretty, but if it can at least become more cost-effective then that is a win for me.

Last Updated: May 15, 2020

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