Pixelworks’ Qualcomm deal could improve HDR video streaming on phones

Qualcomm 855
Pixelworks will be porting over to the Snapdragon 855 mobile platform its Soft Iris calibration solution and some other software features. (Qualcomm)

Pixelworks, a maker of display quality chips for both AMOLEDs and LCDs, is partnering with Qualcomm to offer its visual display calibration solution as a software service for devices based on the Snapdragon 855 chipset.

Among other things, the agreement will help streaming HDR video look better on mobile devices.

Peter Carson, vice president of marketing for mobile at Pixelworks, said that HDR content from popular streaming providers effectively raises the bar on visual quality, meaning that users will notice a lot more details (both good and bad), particularly if their mobile display isn’t up to snuff in terms of color accuracy.

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“On the flip side, if you have the most accurate color and the most precise tone mapping, you’ll have a much better quality experience,” said Carson. “You’ll have much more detail, contrast and the original color tonality that the content creators intended.”

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Pixelworks will be porting over to the Snapdragon 855 mobile platform its Soft Iris calibration solution and some other software features. Pixelworks’ targeting of the Snapdragon 855 is connected to the timing around 5G, which the company believes will lead to video becoming the core focus of visual quality on mobile devices.

Carson said that for the past few years most of the visual quality messaging around smartphones has focused on pictures and adding HDR to photos.

“Now what we’re seeing is most of the content in the U.S. that’s available for streaming is HDR,” Carson said, adding that HDR video heightens the need for color accuracy. He said Pixelworks offers improved tone mapping, color calibration and adaptation to different ambient lighting.

The Soft Iris platform with Qualcomm is not the full feature set available with Pixelworks’ Iris processors since some of those features are too hardware intense to be done outside of Pixelworks’ silicon.

But what Soft Iris may lack in a complete feature set, Carson said it makes up for in high efficiency calibration. The company’s algorithms have been refined to the point where smartphone makers can afford to do color calibration at scale on all the phones they make. Carson said phonemakers using Soft Iris can color calibrate each phone within about 30 seconds.

“One of the things that’s been lacking in the industry has been an algorithm that’s that efficient, so you can test in 30 seconds and not two or three minutes,” Carson said, adding that Pixelworks can do that testing in the display factory or where the actual handset is made.