PolarEyes sensors from Metalenz are 1,000 times smaller than a human hair

Metalenz has launched PolarEyes, a new kind of sensor that employs polarisation technology to provide a new level of sensing to camera-equipped devices.

The sensors can monitor air quality or let you control your healthcare using your vials and a smartphone.

The meta-optics startup, which was founded at Harvard University, also adds polarised lenses to consumer and mobile devices for increased privacy and security.

From next-generation smartphones and consumer electronics to new healthcare and automotive applications, the full-stack, system-level solution combines physics and optics, software and hardware to power everything from next-generation smartphones and consumer electronics to new healthcare and automotive applications.

Metalenz PolarEyes gathers and analyses the polarised light information that regular cameras ignore in order to better understand the world around us.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Metalenz CEO Robert Devlin remarked, “We’re simply extremely thrilled now to see precisely how we can affect all of these businesses.” “What we’ve set out to accomplish is deliver a whole new type of sensing into everyone’s pocket,” says the team.

They were last mentioned in February 2021, when they raised $10 million to develop 3D sensors on a chip with structures 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.

Metalenz was able to expand manufacturing and speed the development of its micro optics on a chip technology and innovative lens, which might power the next generation of sensors for smartphones and other consumer, health-care, and automotive applications, thanks to this financing.

Higher-quality lenses offer more robust phone capabilities for customers, allowing them to take more professional-looking photos in even the most tough conditions while also extending battery life. Smartphone manufacturers, such as Apple, are now putting numerous cameras in their devices to produce 3D images.

According to Devlin, the firm has produced its first revenue and will release its first product in the second quarter of 2022.

“It’s a 3D-sensing solution,” Devlin said, “and it’ll be in consumer devices in the second quarter of this year.” “We’ve got the opportunity to see the production process in action. We can utilise it to bring totally new types of sensing to the form factor and price point of the customer.”

Face recognition for Apple’s devices was the most recent major advancement in facial sensing. Metalenz is a significant advancement in optics.

“You can really learn something about what the materials you’re looking at are composed of using polarisation, and so you can understand something about the underlying structure of these materials,” Devlin said. “You can tell if something is man-made or natural, as well as whether it is clear or opaque. As a result, it provides you with a wealth of additional data that enables your cameras and machine vision systems to make much better judgments.”

Origins

Metalenz has the potential to improve camera lenses and sensors. The sensors are based on meta-optic technology developed at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University (SEAS). Metalenz was created in 2017 by Devlin and Federico Capasso, a professor of applied physics.

With such a years of work and 15 granted patents on the idea, the Boston firm claims to have a leg up on the competition.

Metalenz claims to be working with a number of the world’s leading companies in the consumer electronics and automotive industries, ranging from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to subsystem manufacturers.

“We’ve been concentrating on bringing that initial product to market,” Devlin added. “As a startup, we’ve reached a lot of our major milestones.”

Despite advances in camera technology, lens technology has remained mostly unaltered for centuries. Meta-optics, or optical metasurfaces, is a new area that focuses on manufactured materials with patterned structures 1,000 times thinner than a human hair and particularly intended to exploit features not found in bulk natural materials.

Planar surfaces made out of sub-wavelength strucures with a consistent height of several hundred nanometers are used in meta-optics. They handle light like waveguides and provide a level of control not achievable with refractive lenses. A single thin meta-optic lens may outperform a stack of refractive lenses in terms of performance and cost. They’re made in the same facilities that create image sensors, using ordinary semiconductor methods.

Unique meta-optic qualities, according to the business, allow the combining of many lenses into a single thin and flat surface, opening up new possibilities. Improved 3D sensing and new sensors that may fit beneath a mobile phone’s display are among the features.

Metalenz has an exclusive global licence to a portfolio of fundamental intellectual assets pertaining to metasurfaces produced in the Capasso Lab at Harvard SEAS, according to Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development. The squad has a total of 20 members and has funded $15 million.

The researchers wanted to see whether they could control light fully with only a single nanoscale device. Then they produced it at a foundry, or contract manufacturer, using a basic semiconductor chip design. Metalenz concentrates on design and engineering as a fabless semiconductor firm, and it can rely on manufacturers to mass-produce its sensors.

Metalenz, for example, can do “spoof-proof” face authentication, detecting if someone is using a facial-spoofing mask or pictures to scam someone.

If you hold a photograph of someone’s face in front of a smartphone camera, the camera won’t be able to tell the difference between human skin and a piece of paper. Devlin demonstrated how this works. It can essentially identify the polarisation signature of both human skin and paper.

A doctor might examine skin cancer and determine if it is hazardous.

It also has improved 3D sensing capabilities. It improves the quality of virtual backdrops and 3D object scanning resolution in AR/VR environments by providing more details to identify shapes and edges with higher contrast.

It also recognises the chemical nature of items, allowing manufacturers to warn drivers about road dangers like black ice and physicians to detect skin cancer using a smartphone.

It offers anti-glare vision as well. It works around glare, the reflecting light that frequently obscures human and machine vision, allowing robots to better move and autos to monitor for distracted driving — a new safety feature that will be mandated in all vehicles by 2025.

Metalenz is collaborating with companies all around the globe, including STMicroelectronics, to increase production and logistics.

3M Ventures, Intel Capital, and TDK Ventures are among the semiconductor industry’s leading investors in Metalenz. In 2016, the firm was established.