How Android smartphone cameras are drastically changing in 2018



It’s likely going to be difficult to find a phone with a single-lens camera in 2018 as Qualcomm is introducing three new camera modules, with two specifically designed to boost the depth sensing prowess of our devices. 

Just as Qualcomm is one of the biggest names in phone processors, these imaging modules, which are a part of the company’s Spectra Module Program, could find their way to dozens of Android smartphones next year, including some of the 2018’s flagships.

By developing and licensing the camera parts to hardware partners, Qualcomm aims to speed up the time it takes to deliver depth sensing to consumers in phones as well as head-mounted displays. 

The three new modules are as follows: an iris authentication camera module, a passive depth sensing module and an active depth sensing module. 

The iris authentication module will allow for the biometric security feature to be embedded into phones. Qualcomm says it works through sunglasses and also has liveness detection, meaning you won’t be able to fool it with a photo or a (super creepy) 3D model of someone’s face. 

Iris detection isn’t exactly a common smartphone feature, though you will find it in some devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus.

Qualcomm says it works through sunglasses and also has liveness detection, meaning you won’t be able to fool it with a photo or a (super creepy) 3D model of someone’s face.

The passive depth sensing module is for entry- and mid-tier devices. Two cameras create two images of the same object, and in sensing the disparity between the images, can infer how close the object is to you.

While this module brings basic depth sensing to lower-end devices, it also requires ample light to cut down on noise as well as a background that’s differentiated enough to pick up the object, i.e. the background can’t be a starch white wall.

To that end, Qualcomm created the active depth sensing module, also known as its structured light image sensor. It has two essential components: an infrared illuminator and an infrared camera. This module doesn’t require a dual camera, though it’s more likely than not phones that use it will feature both an infrared camera and a standard one.

With this module, the infrared illuminator is constantly projecting a laser in a known light pattern. The infrared camera reads the light pattern and figures out any discrepancy caused by an object that’s in its path.