Time-of-flight ranging sensor bring multi-object detection to mobile devices: Patented silicon and module level architectures in the VL53L1 sensor adds optical lenses to the FlightSense technology based sensor modules from STMicroelectronics.

The third-generation laser-ranging sensor boosts core performance while introducing multi-target detection, cover-glass crosstalk immunity at long distance, and programmable multi-zone scanning. According to the company, these advances deliver new levels of sensor performance to robotics, user detection, drones, IoT, and wearable applications.

The module has a form factor of 4.9 x 2.5 x 1.56mm and integrates a new lens system, a 940nm VCSEL invisible-light source, a processing core, and a SPAD photon detector. The optical lens system increases the photon detection rate to boost the ranging performance. The embedded microcontroller manages the complete ranging function and runs the algorithms to minimise host-processing overhead and system power consumption to maximise battery life for mobile applications.

The VL53L1 performs a full measurement operation in as little as 5ms. For auto focus applications in smartphones, the sensor detects objects twice as fast as earlier-generation devices, claims the company. The VL53L1 has doubled the maximum ranging distance of sensors to beyond 4.5m, to matched the hyper-focal distance of 21Mpixel camera optics.

The design architecture can detect multiple targets within the scene and also allows manufacturers to sub-divide the SPAD sensing matrix into custom-defined zones. These small zones can provide spatial ranging information that the customer application can use for dual-camera computation in stereoscopy as well as simple depth-map use cases.

Unlike technology used by other ranging sensors, the company’s patented algorithms and direct Time-of-Flight architecture are immune to crosstalk at longer distances making the VL53L1 compatible with a larger selection of cover-glass materials and design artwork than before.

The I2C-based VL53L1 module has a package of software drivers and documentation for quick and simple integration. It is in production and available now.

The VL53L1 will be demonstrated at booth H7A61 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, 27 Feb to 02 March.

More information on this article: Time-of-flight ranging sensor bring multi-object detection to mobile devices

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