The ToF sensors (Time of Flight) could be a trend of 2019. For Lu Weibing, CEO of Redmi, it is a technology that could be interesting, but that will disappoint users by its lack of utility.
In addition to traditional photo sensors, smartphone manufacturers are starting to integrate ToF sensors into their products. But is it really a good idea?
What is a ToF sensor?
A ToF sensor, for Time of Flight, and a sensor that produces light (possibly not or not very visible to the human eye), which bounces off a surface before returning to the sensor. Thanks to the duration of this round trip, the smartphone is able to calculate the distance between its ToF sensor and a specific point of space, which allows in particular to create a 3D map of an object or a room.
Apple integrated for the first time this type of sensor on the iPhone X, which gave Face ID, its facial recognition system in 3D. Other manufacturers then took up the idea, like Huawei on the Mate 20 Pro or Xiaomi on the Mi 8 Pro.
But now in early 2019, a new trend is being forged: ToF sensors on the back of the phone. This is the case, for example, with Honor View 20.
A useless sensor?
You will understand, such a positioning is not intended to help unlocking facial recognition. To justify the presence of this sensor, Honor briefly mentioned the mixed reality and the depth measurement to improve the photos in portrait mode, but did not really show really bluffing use cases that can not be obtained with simple CMOS photo sensors.
For his part, Lu Weibing, CEO of Redmi, spoke on this technology on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging site. He explains that Xiaomi has already done research on ToF sensors, but that it is only a gimmick and that at present, there is no concrete use of this type of sensors. He adds that these smartphones will "disappoint users who have spent their money."
He does not hesitate to criticize his competitors, without naming them, and more particularly this race to the one who will be the first to integrate a technology before even thinking about the uses of the technology itself. As one great man said (Jeff Goldblum, aka Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park): "They were so busy wondering if they could, they did not stop to wonder if they had to."
What about third party developers?
What Lu Weibing perhaps forgets by making such a judgment is that many of today's technologies do not have the utility we know about them today, and that's the use that's being made of them. does the third party developers who created the use cases.
Very recently, Jean Varaldi, General Manager of Qualcomm, admitted that "at the launch of 3G and 4G, no one imagined that this could one day revolutionize the market of taxis as Uber did". Perhaps a third-party developer will then find an overwhelming use of this ToF sensor, which Lu Weibing considers useless today. So, maybe we'll see this technology coming to Redmi. Maybe even quickly.