New sensor promises to bring ‘true colour’ to smartphone cameras

In the hotly contested smartphone market, photography can be a major battlefield. Coupled with insatiable desires to improve batteries’ quality, durability, storage and handling continuously ranks As a major factor when choosing a phone.

At CES 2023, Belgium-based startup Spectricity unveiled a new entrant in the competition: the S1 chip.

Spectricity claims the S1 is the first truly miniaturized, mass-manufacturable spectral image sensor for mobile devices — and the company is targeting sector dominance. Within two years, Spectricity boldly expects the sensor to be inside every smartphone.

The upside stems from a single focus: measuring “true color” in smartphones. According to Spectricty, this is something that the best smartphones still can’t do.

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The problem stems from deficiencies in their white balance software, which is used to remove unrealistic color tones. Our natural vision system does this very well. When we see a white wall under sunlight or a fluorescent lamp, our brain adjusts the color temperatures to make both scenes appear white. Smartphones try to do the same, but the results are often disappointing.

“None of these cameras can recognize true color.

Limited by the three RGB color channels of red, green, and blue, the automatic white balance algorithms struggle to correct abnormal color temperatures. As a result, photos taken under incandescent bulbs can appear more orange than under sunlight, while shaded areas may appear bluer.

“Although there is significant processing power behind these cameras, none of them can recognize true color,” Vincent Moret, CEO of Spectricity, tells TNW.

To solve this problem, the S1 sensor uses additional filters to analyze the spectral signature of an object. After sensing the light source in the image, the system performs color correction accordingly.

Spectrum founders