The inventor of the one-chip video camera was Marc Loinaz, a Filipino resident of New Jersey who works with Lucent Technologies. He was featured in the July 1999 issue of Discover Magazine.
Marc Loinaz, Director of Design, Physical Layer Products
Dr. Loinaz has over 10 years of mixed-signal integrated circuit design experience. Before co-founding Aeluros, he was a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff in the High-Speed Physical Layer Design group at Agere Systems, building transceivers in SiGe for OC-192 and for OC-768. In his previous position at Bell Labs, Dr. Loinaz led a research team that demonstrated the world’s first single-chip color digital video camera in CMOS. He received the 1998 Best Paper Award from the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits, a 1999 Award for Technological Innovation from Discover Magazine, and a 2000 Distinguished Technical Staff Award from Bell Labs. Dr. Loinaz received his Ph.D. degree from Stanford University in mixed-signal CMOS IC design. He has co-authored 13 papers and holds 6 U.S. Using the same ho-hum materials found in a personal computer, Marc Loinaz and his colleagues at Lucent Technologies have created every secret agent’s dream contraption: a video camera the size of a cigarette lighter. Lucent’s impetus was a little more practical, however. It was looking to create imaging devices “so cheap and low power they can be integrated into everything from wristwatches to kitchen appliances,” Loinaz says.
Today’s video cameras generate pictures from charge-coupled devices (CCDs), which provide a great picture but require a pile of support circuitry that cannot sit on the same chip as the image sensors. “This makes CCD cameras relatively large, power hungry, and complicated to design and manufacture,” says Loinaz. The one-chip camera, on the other hand, is based on the same ubiquitous silicon chip found in microprocessors and memory devices.
A big challenge for Loinaz’s team was “getting the sensitive analog circuits to live happily with the digital signal processing circuits on the same piece of silicon.” Ultimately they taught the two circuits simply to ignore each other. “We scheduled operations on the chip so that during all the sensitive analog operations, we shut down the digital circuits.” Lucent recently licensed its video on a chip to Vanguard International Semiconductor, which plans to market products based on the technology sometime this year. Mini-video imagers might be mounted on car bumpers to eliminate blind spots and reduce collisions. The one-chip camera could also be used in home security. And then, of course, there’s the potential for things like portable video wristwatch phones. Dick Tracy, eat your heart out.