Apple Invents an optical system with Microlens Array Projectors to advance time-of-flight sensing for Face ID, delivering more realistic AR/VR features+
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to optoelectronic devices, and specifically to devices and methods for generating an array of optical beams. The invention provides improved microlens arrays and optical systems based on such arrays. This could be involve improving Face ID, future applications relating to Apple’s mixed reality headset and more.
Apple’s patent FIG. 1A below is a side view of projector #20. This sort of projector can be used, among other things, in projecting a pattern of spots onto a target scene, for example to serve as a structured-light pattern in a depth mapping system, such as used for Face ID.
Alternatively, this sort of optical scheme can be used in other applications requiring projection of a light beam or beams with high optical quality, such as projectors for time-of-flight sensing.
According to the company Analog Devices, time-of-flight applications could also be used in mixed reality headsets to enable more realistic AR/VR features.
This technology could also be used in future vehicles with autonomous features. For instance, in next-generation automobiles, ToF systems in the cabin will be able to monitor the position and the state of the driver and its passengers, taking over control and maneuvering the car to safety in cases where the driver becomes incapacitated.
Additionally, gesture control systems, made possible through ToF technology, are said to be the next-generation user interface for the car, allowing the driver to answer an incoming phone call, change an audio input source, or even adjust the climate control through simple gestures of the driver’s hand or fingers.
While Apple’s patent application 20220229210 titled “Microlens array with tailored sag profile” is brief, it’s highly technical. To review it, click here.
Roei Remez: Senior Optical Engineer who spent 10 years in the Israel’s Defense Forces as a senior optical engineer.
Keith Lyon: Depth Sensing Engineer. Previously employed by KLA-Tencor as Image Sensor Technology Manager
Niv Gilboa: Electro-Optics Hardware Manager. Gilboa came to Apple after the acquisition of PrimeSense who was instrumental in the development of Face ID technology.
Ronen Akerman: System Engineering Team Leader. Akerman came to Apple after the acquisition of PrimeSense.
Scott Smith: Senior Engineer, Depth HW Architect