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Smart pixels, the integration of photo detector arrays and processing electronics on a single semiconductor chip, have been driven by its capability to perform parallel processing of large pixelated images and in real-time reduce a complex image into a manageable stream of signals that can be brought off-chip. In recent years, optical modulators and emitters have been integrated with photo detectors and on-chip electronics. The potential uses for smart pixels are almost as varied as are the designs. They can be used for image processing, data processing, communications, and that special sub-niche of communications, computer networking. While no immediate commercial use for smart pixels has risen to the forefront, smart pixels systems are utilizing technology developed for a wide variety of other commercial applications. As lasers, video displays, optoelectronics and other related technologies continue to progress, it is inevitable that smart pixels will continue to integrate along with these commercially successful technologies.
The name smart pixel is combination of two ideas, "pixel" is an image processing term denoting a small part, or quantized fragment of an image, the word "smart" is coined from standard electronics and reflects the presence of logic circuits. Together they describe a myriad of devices. These smart pixels can be almost entirely optical in nature, perhaps using the non-linear optical properties of a material to manipulate optical data, or they can be mainly electronic, for instance a photo receiver coupled with some electronic switching.


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