Imaging & Detector Industry Report

DALSA supplies image chips for Mars rover; Vista business sold to Viking; OmniCorder expands patent portfolio; MORE...

DALSA supplies image chips for Mars rover

The high-resolution color images being transmitted from Mars to Earth by the Mars rover Spirit are the result of CCD image sensor chips, designed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL; Pasadena, CA) and manufactured by DALSA Corporation (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) (see "Spirit reveals Mars in stereo color," p. 33). Spirit's high-resolution "Pancam" uses a stereo pair of CCD cameras located on a camera bar that sits on top of the mast of the rover and is responsible for taking high-resolution views of the surface and sky through eight different colored filters. Pancam's mast assembly allows it to rotate 360°, while the camera bar can swing up or down through 180° of elevation. This allows the cameras to generate panoramic image mosaics up to 4000 pixels high by 24,000 pixels around.

In related news, DALSA received a $2.1 million production order for custom image sensors from an international customer. The chips will be "the eyes" of an imaging system being developed for space-based remote sensing, which is used for monitoring crops, comparing urban and rural land use, tracking icebergs, detecting oil spills, and making maps and nautical charts.

Vista business sold to Viking

Viking Systems (La Jolla, CA) has purchased the Westborough, MA–based visualization-technology business of Vista Medical Technologies (Carlsbad, CA), in a deal that could eventually be worth $5.5 million. The transaction, which involves royalty and cash payments and will be a minimum of roughly $1.5 million, could reach the higher figure if the acquired business reaches certain business goals. The deal was expected to close in the second half of January 2004. Viking, which makes imaging technology that surgeons use in complex surgeries, said it is in acquisition mode and plans more purchases of companies that make vision, optics, laser, and sensor technology. Vista Medical's visualization-technology business makes video technology used by surgeons during minimally invasive surgeries.

OmniCorder expands patent portfolio

OmniCorder Technologies (East Setauket, NY), a developer of medical-imaging applications using advanced infrared focal-plane arrays, has added a new patent to its portfolio for a dual-band focal-plane array. The patent was granted to scientists developing quantum-well IR photodetector (QWIP) sensors at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, CA) and at the Army Research Laboratory (Adelphi, MD), and was assigned to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). OmniCorder Technologies owns the exclusive worldwide rights to this and other infrared sensor patents for biomedical applications through a license agreement with Caltech.

QWIP sensor technology is used in OmniCorder's BioScanIR medical imaging product. In October 2003, OmniCorder was awarded a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency to develop a four-band QWIP infrared sensor.

Agilent sues over optical mouse sensors

Agilent Technologies (Palo Alto, CA) has sued PixArt Imaging (Hsin-Chu, Taiwan) for patent infringement in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that PixArt infringes upon Agilent's U.S. Patent 6,433,780 relating to optical mouse sensor technology. PixArt had earlier brought a declaratory judgment action seeking a determination that Agilent's patent is invalid and not infringed. Agilent is seeking to stop PixArt from selling optical mouse sensors to companies manufacturing optical mice that are imported, distributed, or sold in the United States. Agilent is also seeking damages from PixArt for unauthorized use of Agilent's optical mouse sensor technology. Agilent says it has shipped more than 200 million optical mouse sensors since the release of its first navigation sensor in 1999.

Also in the news . . .

Sensors Unlimited (Princeton, NJ) received a Phase 1b contract from the U.S. Air Force for a 12-month, $2 million program to develop a high-frame-rate camera for imaging and ranging using an in-pixel digitized, monolithic PIN/APD focal plane array. . . . OSRAM Opto Semiconductors (San Jose, CA), a developer of solid-state LED devices, received a $4.65 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to demonstrate the potential of white organic light-emitting diodes to save energy in commercial and residential applications. . . . Solid State Displays (Austin, TX), a developer of novel color display technology utilizing light-scattering liquid-crystal materials, signed a memorandum of understanding with Deep Japan Co. (Fukuoka City, Japan), to codevelop advanced plastic color liquid-crystal displays and jointly market the technologies to producers and users of color displays.

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