On June 20, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published two patent applications from Apple that reveal possible new improvements coming to future iDevice cameras. The first improvement involves providing iDevices with superior focus features while the second one relates to advanced video stabilization that Apple's engineer creatively calls the virtual tripod. Apple began working on video stabilization back in June 2011. A secondary patent months later once again illustrated that Apple's camera team were very focused on bringing video stabilization to iDevice cameras. Apple first introduced basic video stabilization on the iPhone in October of that year. Today's patent application both illustrates and confirms that Apple's push to achieve superior video stabilization results is an ongoing project.
Apple's Patent Background
Many electronic devices include cameras with focus capabilities. An electronic device including a camera may include manual focus, auto-focus, or both. Exemplary electronic devices include, but are not limited to, mobile telephones, personal digital assistants, portable music players, portable video players, and portable computer systems such as laptops, notebooks and tablet computers.
During a manual focus or auto-focus operation, a lens driver in the camera adjusts the focus position of the camera lens, which is the distance between the center of the camera lens and the sensor imaging plane. The focus position of a camera lens may be used by applications, such as within imaging or computer vision applications. The focus position can be used within these applications to determine geometric information, such as the distance of an object from the camera, for example.
During a focus operation, the focus position of the camera lens is adjusted using a lens driver, which is powered using a drive current. The value of the drive current can be used to estimate the focus position.
However, estimating the focus position based solely upon a measured drive current can lead to inaccurate results due to variables, such as the orientation of the electronic device. Thus, a need exists for an improved technique of accurately estimating a focus position for a camera lens.
Apple Invents New Techniques for Improving a Camera's Focus Feature
Apple's invention provides techniques for estimating the focus position of a camera lens. A drive current value may be received from a lens driver. An orientation of an electronic device may be detected using a motion sensor. A gravity vector based upon the orientation may then be determined.
A drive current offset may be determined based upon the gravity vector. The drive current value may be combined with the calculated drive current offset to create a normalized drive current. A lens position value associated with a camera lens of the electronic device may be computed based upon the normalized drive current. Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted below is a data flow diagram of a lens position estimation system.
In Apple's patent FIG. 1 noted below we see a simplified overview diagram of a lens position measurement system that could work with camera-enabled electronic devices including digital still cameras, camcorders, camera enabled phones, webcams and security cameras.
For more details on Apple's patent titled "Focus Position Estimation System" by Jianping Zhou, see patent application 20130155266 which was originally filed in Q4 2011.
Apple introduces us to the Virtual Tripod
In a secondary patent application published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office, we learn about another of Apple's inventions relating to advance camera functionality that is likely to be built into future iDevices. Specifically, Apple's secondary invention relates to compensating for unwanted motion experienced during video image capture operations. To capture our imagination and understanding of this feature, Apple creatively dubbed this new feature the "Virtual Tripod."
Today, many personal electronic devices are equipped with digital cameras that are video capable. Exemplary personal electronic devices include, but are not limited to, mobile telephones, personal digital assistants, portable music players, portable video players, and portable computer systems such as laptops, notebooks and tablet computers.
One common problem with video capture is unwanted motion of the camera. While some motion may be desired (e.g., the smooth pan of a camera across a scene), other motion is not (e.g., motion introduced by shaky hands or walking).
Many video capture devices include a gyroscopic sensor that may be used to assist various device functions, including eliminating motion captured by a camera. However, when eliminating motion captured by a camera, it is not always clear if the captured motion is intended or unintended motion. Thus, there is a need for efficient ways to distinguish between intended and unintended motion, so that only unintended motion is eliminated.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a simplified block diagram of a camera-enabled device according to an embodiment of the present invention; patent FIG. 2 illustrates a functional block diagram of a video processing system; and patent FIG. 5 illustrates a method for selectively applying stabilization to video frames.
While patent FIG. 1 is illustrated as an iPhone, principles of the present invention are not so limited. Embodiments of the present invention may be applied in a variety of types of devices, including, for example, portable computers, tablet computers, webcams, digital cameras, and/or camcorders. Accordingly, the camera may include a front facing camera or a rear facing camera.
Additionally, the stabilization system will function during a videoconference using Apple's FaceTime.
To get into the specifics of this invention, see Apple's patent application 20130155264 that was originally filed in Q4 2011.
Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.