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Camera chip startup Prophesee and Qualcomm sign multi-year deal

FILE PHOTO: Qualcomm sign shown in San Diego

By Jane Lanhee Lee

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) - Paris-based startup Prophesee, a maker of camera chips inspired by the way the human eye works, said on Monday it has signed a multi-year deal with Qualcomm Inc to be used with the smartphone technology giant's product.

While today's camera chips continuously process the full frame of images, Prophesee's chip will only process changes in the scene, such as light or movement, which makes it faster and requires less computing power, said Luca Verre, co-founder and chief executive at Prophesee.

Verre said that's similar to the way the human eye focuses on certain objects rather than taking in all details in the background.

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The technology works with pixels on the sensor that only send information to the processor when there is change, while pixels that perceive no change stay muted. There are a million pixels on Prophesee's latest chips.

Manufacturing of the chip will be outsourced to Sony Group Corp. "So we are really combining both key players in the space," said Verre, referring to both Qualcomm and Sony, without disclosing financial terms of the deal.

Verre said the Prophesee chip will be used in addition to conventional camera chips in a blueprint for smartphones that will be released this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Mass production of the chips is planned for next year when they would be integrated into phones, he said.

The additional Prophesee chip will help correct some of the blurry imagery in existing smartphone camera systems, said Verre.

(Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)