Seebetter, new European project to develop an advanced silicon retina for artificial vision

(Nanowerk News) In February 2011, a new European project called Seebetter was launched with the goal to design and build a high-performance silicon retina using advanced photodetector and packaging technology. It is expected that these new vision sensors will revolutionize artificial vision and find wide applications in industry.
Conventional image sensors are fundamentally limited by comparison with biological retinas, because they produce redundant sequences of images at a limited frame rate. By contrast neuromorphic 'silicon retina' vision sensors mimic the biological retina's information processing capability by computing the salient spatial and temporal aspects of the visual input, and encoding this information in a frame-free data-driven asynchronous spiking output. The range of applications of these silicon retinas remain restricted because of their low quantum efficiency and their inability to combine high quality spatial and temporal processing on the same chip.
Solutions to these technical challenges would revolutionize artificial vision by providing fast, low power sensors with biology's superior local gain control and spatiotemporal processing. Such sensors would find immediate and wide applications in industry, and provide technology for future vision prostheses.
Photograph of a hybrid photodetector
Photograph of a hybrid photodetector
SeeBetter aims at addressing these limitations, by realizing an advanced silicon retina with the superior quantum efficiency and spatiotemporal processing of biological retinas. Seebetter will build on multidisciplinary expertise in biology, biophysics, biomedical, electrical and semiconductor engineering. The objectives of the project are:
  • to understand better the functional roles of the 6 major classes of retinal ganglion cells using genetic and physiological techniques;
  • to use this understanding to model mathematically and computationally retinal vision processing from the viewpoint of biology, machine vision, and future retinal prosthetics;
  • to design and build the first high performance silicon retina with a heterogeneous array of pixels specialized for both spatial and temporal visual processing; and
  • to combine this silicon retina with an optimized photodetector wafer with high quantum efficiency using state-of-the-art backside illumination and hybridization technologies.
  • Besides coordinating the project, imec contributes to Seebetter with its image sensor and hybridization technologies which, when combined, have already provided record efficiency in previous imager projects. Imec will take care of the design of the photodetector in the imaging system. The fabrication of the photodetector and its hybridization to the CMOS electronics will be done using imec's 200mm line.
    SeeBetter is a 'small or medium-scale focused research project (STREP)' project (number 270324) in FET proactive ICT Call 6 (FP7-ICT-2009-6) in the work program Brain-inspired ICT. The members of the SeeBetter consortium are the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (Switzerland), imec (Belgium), Imperial College London (United Kingdom) and the University of Zurich (Switzerland).
    Source: imec