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Rambus Binary Pixel Wants to Put Super Camera in Your Phone

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 34 comments
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Rambus promises that with its Binary Pixel you'll be able to take great pictures with a smartphone. Unfortunately, it won't be available for a while.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona there weren't just phones, but also upcoming phone technology. Spain was the place for Rambus to show Binary Pixel, a technology that promises to greatly improve the quality of the pictures we take with our smartphones.

That's quite a significant promise, since every day more of us are using a phone as a primary picture-taking device, leaving at home a proper camera. This usually means giving up some quality in exchange for, but gap could soon be closing.

Rambus says its innovation is made out of two things: a new kind of sensor and the software, which applies HDR to every shot. The idea is to take more light and detail into the lens and the sensor.

"Today’s compact mainstream sensors are only able to capture a fraction of what the human eye can see," said Dr. Martin Scott, chief technology officer at Rambus. "Our breakthrough binary pixel technology enables a tremendous performance improvement for compact imagers capable of ultra high-quality photos and videos from mobile devices."

The target is to take better pictures even in high contrast scenarios: dusk or dawn, strong daylight with shadowed areas – always keeping as much details as possible in every part of the picture. "This binary pixel technology is optimized at the pixel level to sense light similar to the human eye while maintaining comparable form factor, cost and power of today’s mobile and consumer imagers," Scott added.

Putting it in a simple way, Binary Pixel applies HDR to every image taken and improve the signal-to-noise performance in low-light conditions. The demos we saw at the Mobile World Congress looked good, but we'll have to wait some time before seeing this chip installed in actual phones.

Rambus told us that it would still need 18 months to go from the prototype stage to the commercial product, and another six months to reach the shelves in one or more smartphones. That may not be a long time for a completely new technology, but in the meantime others players are working on their own solutions: we'll soon see more Nokia PureView or HTC Ultrapixel cameras – like the one on the HTC One – which could make Binary Pixel obsolete even before it makes it to the market.

Rambus Binary Pixel

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Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    sylvez , March 1, 2013 5:03 PM
    It's a trap!
  • 20 Hide
    balister , March 1, 2013 5:02 PM
    While the camera looks nice, the company behind it needs to die!
  • 17 Hide
    Memnarchon , March 1, 2013 5:21 PM
    Even if your product is superior (like RDRAM was), Rambus, just... go to hell...
Other Comments
    Display all 34 comments.
  • 20 Hide
    balister , March 1, 2013 5:02 PM
    While the camera looks nice, the company behind it needs to die!
  • 20 Hide
    sylvez , March 1, 2013 5:03 PM
    It's a trap!
  • 7 Hide
    tarzan2001 , March 1, 2013 5:05 PM
    Kinda looks like they just turned up the brightness in the images on the right...
  • 6 Hide
    DroKing , March 1, 2013 5:14 PM
    Lol what? I dont see much difference and weren't rambus the same company who screwed others?
  • 17 Hide
    Memnarchon , March 1, 2013 5:21 PM
    Even if your product is superior (like RDRAM was), Rambus, just... go to hell...
  • 2 Hide
    bunz_of_steel , March 1, 2013 5:25 PM
    Rambus memory I recall and it was costly to use.... if same company then nahh. Besides if they have this for Cell phone when are the big boy's like Canon, Nikon, Sony gonna poop one out?
  • 7 Hide
    curiosul , March 1, 2013 5:30 PM
    tarzan2001Kinda looks like they just turned up the brightness in the images on the right...

    It's not the brightness, it's called High Dynamic Range (HDR).

    bunz_of_steelRambus memory I recall and it was costly to use.... if same company then nahh. Besides if they have this for Cell phone when are the big boy's like Canon, Nikon, Sony gonna poop one out?


    This (HDR) is something that ALL camera/sensors manufacturers have ignored competing instead in the ISO/MP areas
  • 6 Hide
    chicofehr , March 1, 2013 5:57 PM
    The lack of proper optics is what cell phones lack. No matter how good the sensor is, if you got crap optics, the picture wont look as good. A cheap stand alone camera will still do better. When u zoom in a pic taken with any cell camera, u see the difference.
  • 6 Hide
    wannabepro , March 1, 2013 6:13 PM
    It needs to have a high quality normal camera as a third section of the video so we can see exactly what it's supposed to look like.
  • 6 Hide
    Non-Euclidean , March 1, 2013 6:34 PM
    Die Rambus Die
  • 0 Hide
    milktea , March 1, 2013 6:52 PM
    At least Rambus starts to have their own product to sell, instead of ripping off others with their paper patents.
  • 4 Hide
    dextermat , March 1, 2013 7:09 PM
    No thanks I can't pay for a 1000$ phone with a nice camera in it
  • 7 Hide
    fulle , March 1, 2013 7:21 PM
    HDR increases the dynamic range in a picture. This seems to just brighten everything into the same flat lighting, so I think they should change the tech to be called NDR, standing for "No Dynamic Range".
  • 2 Hide
    CaedenV , March 1, 2013 7:29 PM
    curiosulIt's not the brightness, it's called High Dynamic Range (HDR).This (HDR) is something that ALL camera/sensors manufacturers have ignored competing instead in the ISO/MP areas

    It is not so much that they have ignored it on purpose, it just requires a lot of extra work on the part of the processor, often requiring a completely seperate CPU dedicated to doing HDR for the camera in order to do it in real time. Extra hardware makes for extra cost and lower battery life, and to be honest most consumers care more about those metrics rather than the camera.

    That being said, as HDR tech gets better and cheaper we will see more and more of it included in mobile devices, and it makes a HUGE difference at now blowing out bright spots, or blacking out dark areas of a photo. Also, it helps manufacturers to still be able to use smaller cameras while taking pictures because it just takes 2 crappy pictures (one over exposed, and one under exposed) and then blends them together so that you get the detail from both. On the other end of the spectrum you have Nokia who just uses larger cameras and sensors to get a decently high exposure range without the need for the extra processing power, so you sacrifice phone thickness for the sake of keeping the cost down and battery up. But in a few years we will get the best of both worlds, and that will be really nice.

    Oh... and to repeat what others have said: Rambus must die! Yes, they make decent products (not great, just decent), but then they talk companies into long term contracts and up the price on future products. Such horrible business practices deserve to put companies out of business, and I never have, and never will buy a product with Rambus equipment in it if I can at all help it. Rambus was the reason my first computer was a Pentium 3 instead of a Pentium 4. Yes, the P4 had the better burst speed and technical specs... but with the P3 I was able to afford to put much more ram in my system (a whole GB if I remember correctly) which (for what I was doing) was way more important than pure speed. Besides, after the initial burst speed PC133 was faster at sustained throughput anyways, so it was a true wash in the end.
  • 5 Hide
    cyclone44 , March 1, 2013 8:20 PM
    Sounds to me like they're positioning themselves to try to collect royalties from anyone who implements HDR in their camera, just like they did with JEDEC and DDR a decade ago.
  • -1 Hide
    warezme , March 1, 2013 8:22 PM
    Oh no, Rambus is going patent HDR! This process is not knew and I'm kind of surprised high end cameras or anyone hasn't already done this. You don't even need a high end sensor, just maybe a couple of one very fast one that shoots exposure bracketing and then combines them on chip to create..., viola, HDR on the fly. Personally, I have made HDR images and they are hard to make look real because they tend to create flat and unrealistic colored images even though the range is obviously extended. Like in these images. These are best case scenario and still look flat and unnatural.
  • 0 Hide
    warezme , March 1, 2013 8:24 PM
    Dang I wish Tom's had an editing function to fix one's typo's
  • 1 Hide
    blazorthon , March 1, 2013 9:58 PM
    warezmeDang I wish Tom's had an editing function to fix one's typo's


    Click on the "Read the comments on the forums" hyperlink between the article and the comments section and you can edit posts from there.
  • 4 Hide
    dgingeri , March 1, 2013 10:07 PM
    Don't trust Rambus. They deserve to go out of business.
  • -6 Hide
    ta152h , March 1, 2013 10:13 PM
    RAMBUS FTW!!!

    Unlike the dweebs here, I love this company. I've made more money on their stock than any other company.

    Of course, they sue people. But, most of the Microsoft dorks here forget that Microsoft not only has done a lot of suing, but they also practiced illegal actions that destroyed other products based purely on their market position.

    Apple? Are you kidding me? They love litigation. Samsung? Oh no, they've never sued anyone. Nope. Never.

    It's how the business world is. The bigger question is if the company has produced good products. Most of the people here are ignorant to the fact that RAMBUS has, time and time again. Maybe not something as obvious as the iPad or iPhone, that revolutionized those industries, but nonetheless less important products that have made a positive impact.

    They're not perfect, and some of their lawsuits were pure BS. Like Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, IBM, Oracle, HP, etc...
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