Imec demonstrates combined VIS & NIR spectral camera system

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This year's SPIE Photonics West will see imec showcase the world’s first multi-sensor hyperspectral camera system that covers both the visual and red/near infrared spectral ranges.

With a high-resolution RGB sensor, the system is able to support data acquisition at video rate and is able to assess which spectral resolution and range best suit a given application using a single device.

A growing number of companies are investigating how hyperspectral imaging (HSI) technology can enhance their product and/or service offerings. For some, it is clear from the start which spectral range best suits their needs. For others, it involves testing several camera options. While these camera options are available, it’s a proven challenge to fuse their data into one dataset to draw learnings and conclusions.

“Imec has an extensive track record in the domain of HSI research and prototyping and example of which is our series of hyperspectral snapshot cameras. Each variant covers a specific spectral resolution and range - from the visual (VIS), over the near-infrared (NIR), to the short-wave infrared (SWIR) ranges, all while supporting real-time data acquisition, even in motion,” saID Wouter Charle, programME manager of imec’s spectral imaging on-chip activities.

“We’re expanding this portfolio with the imec multishot VNIR+RGB - a multi-sensor system that covers the VIS to NIR spectral range, complemented with a high-resolution RGB sensor. It is specifically aimed at companies and research groups engaging in HSI application development.”

A world’s first, imec’s new hyperspectral camera comes with three sensors, integrated into a single housing, and is equipped with a standard F-mount lens. It will allow partners to flexibly assess the pros and cons of different spectral resolutions and ranges without needing to invest in a myriad of devices or duplicate experiments.

Inside the camera, the light is directed to three channels. Two of them are equipped with an off-the-shelf two-megapixel sensor - together covering the VIS and NIR spectral ranges. A third channel sports a high-resolution RGB sensor. As such, the device covers 30 bands in the 460 to 870nm range, complemented by a true-colour, five-megapixel image – all working in sync at video rate speed for real-time data acquisition (even of dynamic scenes).

“The imec multishot VNIR+RGB is a real game-changer for companies still in doubt about which sensor best suits their needs. Thanks to the system’s flexibility and the software that comes with it, experimenting with HSI technology has never been easier. It allows partners to focus on their core business, i.e., application validation and development, without having to worry about HSI’s underlying complexity,” according to Charle.

The new system lends itself to supporting use cases involving an uncontrollably dynamic scene. Examples include assisted surgery, environmental monitoring, anomaly detection, automotive vision, precision agriculture, and crop inspection.

 “We know there is much interest in this type of solution,” said Charle. “Yet, so far, the underlying complexity has prevented the industry from building a fully functional multi-sensor hyperspectral camera. So that is where imec comes in, exploring and prototyping the required components and helping the industry overcome all related hurdles. As a next step, we are ready to share our learnings and a complete development kit with camera builders and systems companies to support the system’s further commercialisation.”