STMicroelectronics tapped as supplier for iPhone 8’s rumored 3D camera sensor

Franco-Italian company STMicroelectronics used to be the sole supplier of accelerometers, gyroscopes and motion sensors for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices before Apple started dual-sourcing these microscopic components from both STMicroelectronics and Bosch Sensortec.

According to a report Wednesday by French blog iGeneration, the Cupertino company has tapped STMicroelectronics as a supplier for iPhone 8’s 3D camera sensor that should support exciting capabilities such as 3D sensing and mapping, 3D selfies, augmented reality features, advanced facial recognition and more.

Confirming information previously revealed by Challenges (Google Translate), iGeneration was able to confirm that Apple’s now signed a huge contract with STMicroelectronics for iPhone 8’s 3D camera sensor, prompting the supplier to install about fifty dedicated production machines in its facility.

In its latest financial report, STMicroelectronics said it expected to allocate about $1 billion in capex budget this year, almost double the previous year. The investment will be used to increase the company’s production capacity, “in particular with new products and specialized technologies” on the horizon.

Without mentioning Apple by name, STMicroelectronics’ CEO said that a contract they recently signed with an unnamed entity will lead to “substantial revenues expected in the second half of 2017.”

However, iGeneration notes that these 3D imaging sensors won’t be ready in time for iPhone 8. Japanese blog Mac Otakara said this morning that the OLED-based handset may not launch until well after a September announcement.

Revered Apple analysts Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that iPhone 8’s “revolutionary” front-facing camera system would “bring an innovative user experience”. The alleged camera solution reportedly consists of a pair of infrared transmitting and receiving sensors and is said to be heavily based on advanced 3D sensing technology from Israeli firm PrimeSense that Apple acquired in November 2013.

iPhone 8’s augmented reality camera may support a bunch of exciting features, ranging from 3D sensing and modeling to advanced biometric authentication combining facial scanning and Touch ID fingerprint recognition, according to Kuo.

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PrimeSense’s technology works by measuring the time it takes for the invisible infrared light signals reflected off objects to reach the sensor, allowing the system to accurately obtain depth information and recreate most objects in three-dimensional space.

Apple has opened an 800-square-meter research and development center at the heart of Grenlobe, the French city informally known as the capitol of the Alps.

Located nearby STMicroelectronics’ facilities and local imaging labs, the R&D center has a special white room and is reportedly packed with advanced imaging equipment.

Source: iGeneration (Google Translate)