CES 2017: 360-degree video from a drone

It was tough for a vendor to stand out at CES, amid all the lights, sounds, glitter, etc., in Las Vegas. One product/technology that did manage to catch my attention was an image processor developed by Socionext. The company’s SC2000 is aimed at drones and similar “action” cameras. It’s part of the Milbeaut family of image processors, which does a great job to balance high performance and low power.

One of the things that really turned my head with respect to this technology was the associated software that could stitch together the images from front and back cameras to turn it into one 360-degree image (that’s my snazzy profile in the picture above, taken in Socionext’s demo suite). The demo video shot on-site at CES shows it somewhat, but doesn’t really do it justice. In practice, up to four cameras can be used.

Previous models in the Milbeaut series found homes in a broad range of applications, from digital SLR cameras to smartphones, as well as industrial equipment. As drones and action cameras, like the GoPro, become more popular, the requirements have changed, particularly with respect to stability and power. Having an image that doesn’t jump all over the place without the need for mechanical gimbals is just as important as having a camera that doesn’t drain your battery too quickly.

The on the SC2000 rate is 1.2 Gpixels/s, while the power consumption is as low as 1.7 W in typical operating conditions. It’s desoigned with an ARM Cortex A7 Quad CPU running at 660 MHz. The sensor interface can handle SLVS-EC, MIPI D-PHY, MIPI C-PHY, and subLVDS.

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