The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 43 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today including several multitouch related patents and two relating to business covering "Mobile IP over VPN communication protocol" and "VPN Multi-participant conferences." Yet the one granted patent that stood out most today relates to digital cameras that employ a plenoptic imaging system that will provide a refocusable mode after image capture. While the invention relates to future cameras integrated into iDevices, Apple notes that the technology may also relate to a conventional standalone camera as well. Apple revealed a standalone camera invention back in 2009 and hinted of such again twice this year (one and two).
Apple Granted Patent for a Plenoptic Imaging System
Apple has been granted a patent today for their invention relating to the field of digital cameras and more particularly to digital cameras that employ a plenoptic imaging system to provide a refocusable mode after image capture.
Plenoptic cameras have recently been developed as a method to capture an image of a scene that can be refocused after image capture using appropriate image processing.
However, a disadvantage of plenoptic cameras is that the refocused images necessarily have a substantially lower spatial resolution that the native spatial resolution of the sensor array. This reduction in resolution is typically by a factor of 16.times to 36.times. As a result, the image quality of the refocused image will be significantly lower than a properly focused image captured using a conventional digital camera system using the same sensor array. .
Apple's granted patent is about an invention that will enable a camera system to be switched or changed between a low resolution refocusable mode and a high resolution non-refocusable mode.
Apple's patent notes that a digital camera system configurable to operate in a low-resolution refocusable mode and a high-resolution non-refocusable mode comprises: a camera body; an image sensor mounted in the camera body having a plurality of sensor pixels for capturing a digital image; an imaging lens for forming an image of a scene onto an image plane, the imaging lens having an imaging lens aperture; and an adaptor that can be inserted between the imaging lens and the image sensor to provide the low-resolution refocusable mode and can be removed to provide the high-resolution non-refocusable mode, the adaptor including a microlens array with a plurality of microlenses; wherein when the adaptor is inserted to provide the low-resolution refocusable mode, the microlens array is positioned between the imaging lens and the image sensor.
This invention has the advantage that the digital camera system can be configured to capture both low-resolution refocusable digital images and high-resolution non-refocusable digital images.
It has the additional advantage that the adaptor of the present invention can be used to retrofit a conventional digital camera to enable it to capture low-resolution refocusable digital images.
It has the further advantage that the low-resolution refocusable digital images can be used to form refocused images corresponding to a user-specified virtual image plane.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 is a schematic drawing showing a cross-section of the digital imaging system of FIG. 5 wherein the switchable optical module is positioned to provide a high resolution non-refocusable imaging mode.
FIG. 8 is a schematic drawing showing a cross-section of an adaptor that can be inserted between the camera body and the removable imaging lens of FIG. 7 to provide a low-resolution refocusable imaging mode.
Apple's patent FIG. 9 is a schematic drawing showing the adaptor of FIG. 8 inserted between the camera body and the removable imaging lens
Apple's patent FIG. 10 is a schematic drawing showing a cross-section of a plenoptic imaging lens that can be used with a conventional camera body to provide a low-resolution refocusable imaging mode;
Apple's FIG. 11 is a schematic drawing of a digital imaging system using the plenoptic imaging lens of FIG. 10.
Apple credits John Border and Richard Young as the inventors of granted patent 8,593,564 titled "Digital camera including refocusable imaging mode adaptor" which was originally filed in Q3 2011 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. To review today's 15 granted patent claims and details, see Apple's patent.
Apple Granted Four Design Patents Today
Apple was granted four design patents today covering the iMac, a Lightning to USB connector, an Apple Store table product stand and a "Specialist" symbol under numbers D694,243, D694,249, D694,250 and D694,263 respectively. Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs was listed as one of the inventors of the iMac.
The Remaining Patents granted to Apple Today
Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of granted patents with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any Granted Patent should be read in its entirety for full details.
About Making Comments on our Site: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit any comments.