- Apple has bought a small company that makes special image sensors that perform better in low light. The company will most likely use this technology to make the cameras on its iPhones and iPads better.
Apple continues to collect technology and talent to make its already-advanced cameras even better.
InVisage was a California-based startup founded in 2006 that eventually grew to 53 employees, according to LinkedIn. It had raised $98 million form investors including Intel Capital, Nokia Growth Partners, and GGV Capital, according to Crunchbase. It’s not clear how much Apple paid to acquire the company.
Its primary product was called QuantumFilm, which promised better smartphone photo and videos in low-light. Here’s how InVisage’s website described the technology:
“QuantumFilm is a photosensitive layer that relies on InVisage’s newly invented class of materials to absorb light; specifically, the new material is made up of quantum dots, nanoparticles that can be dispersed to form a grid once they are synthesized. Just like paint, this dispersion of solid materials can be coated onto a substrate and allowed to dry.
“The unprecedented light sensitivity and customizability of QuantumFilm set InVisage’s image sensor apart from traditional CMOS image sensors. Conventional sensors rely on a photosensitive layer made of silicon that also incorporates the circuitry necessary to read the electric output from the detected photons, as well as barriers isolating each pixel in order to prevent crosstalk. This means both less room for light sensing and less room for electric storage. InVisage has designed an innovative image sensor architecture with a dedicated QuantumFilm layer in order to maximize light sensing capability.”
Currently, Apple uses back-illuminated images sensors purchased from Sony and other suppliers in iPhones. Here’s how InVisage says its sensor technology compares to the technology in smartphones today:
But in recent years, it has placed an emphasis on building its own core technologies, such as graphics processors and Bluetooth chips. It’s not a stretch to think that Apple may be planning to build its own image sensor, too. Apple doesn’t discuss its purposes or plans for companies and technology it buys, though.
A cute Wes Anderson-like short movie posted on InVisage’s website shows that its sensors can produce a very strong film-like look: