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Apple has filed a patent for an Integrated Spot and Flood Illumination Projector that moves them one step closer to a Notchless iPhone


As Apple attempts to eliminate the complexity of their TrueDepth camera hidden within the iPhone's notch, Apple has filed for a patent that relates to optoelectronic devices, and particularly to sources of optical radiation. More specifically, Apple seeks to combine both their flood illumination and spot illumination into a single projection module to reduce its footprint on an iPhone towards a Notchless design.

Integrated Spot And Flood Illumination Projector

The embodiments of this present invention address the requirements of simple camera design by providing an optoelectronic apparatus combining sources of flood illumination and spot illumination into a single, compact projection module. 

The apparatus comprises a substrate with an optical metasurface formed on one side of the substrate and two arrays of emitters of beams of optical radiation located along the other side of the substrate, emitting beams through the substrate toward the optical metasurface.

One of the arrays, referred to as the “flood emitter array,” emits beams for flood illumination, and the other array, referred to as the “spot emitter array,” emits beams for spot illumination.

The optical metasurface collimates and diffuses the diverging beams output by the emitters in the flood emitter array to create overlapping beams and projects them toward an optical projection element. The resulting illumination is spatially homogenized, but may be only weakly collimated, so that is divergence is similar to that of the beams output by the emitters.

An optical projection element intercepts, collimates, and splits the beams emitted by the spot emitter array and directs them toward the target region, illuminating the target region with a pattern of spots.

The optical projection element typically collimates these beams strongly, so that spots are well focused on the target. The optical projection element has the same effect on the flood illumination beams: It intercepts, focuses, and splits each of the diffused beams from the flood emitter array into multiple tiles, thus further homogenizing the resulting combination of beams, and directs them toward the target region, illuminating it with uniform flood illumination.

The optical projection element may advantageously comprise a metasurface, as well; but alternatively, the optical projection element may comprise diffractive and/or refractive optical components. When the spot and flood illumination are used in conjunction with a camera, the optical projection element may also tilt the outgoing beams toward the field of view of the camera.

In some embodiments, a controller is coupled to actuate separately the flood and spot emitter arrays, i.e., to drive one array or the other to emit optical radiation. Thus, for flood illumination, the emitters of the flood emitter array are actuated, and the target region is illuminated with flood illumination. For spot illumination, the emitters of the spot emitter array are actuated, and the target region is illuminated with a spot pattern.

Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic side view of an optoelectronic apparatus #20 which comprises a projection module #100, which provides both flood illumination and spot illumination. Under the control of a controller #102, projection module #100 emits either a homogeneous beam #104 of optical radiation projected toward a target region #106, or multiple beams #108, illuminating the target region with a pattern of spots #110. Typically, a camera module (not shown) captures images of the target region under the different types of illumination.


Apple's patent FIGS. 2A and 2B above are schematic sectional views of projection module #100, emitting respectively flood and spot illumination. For convenience and clarity of illustration, the components of projection module #100 are not drawn to scale.

The projection module comprises an emitter module #202 and an optical projection element #204. The emitter module comprises an emitter die #206 with a flood emitter array #208 and a spot emitter array #210 on a rear side #212 of the emitter die.

An MOE #214 comprises an MOE substrate #216, which is overlaid on emitter die #206. An optical flood metasurface #218 is formed on the “metasurface optical element" (MOE) substrate, in alignment with flood emitter array #208.

In the pictured embodiment, the optical projection element comprises an optical projection metasurface #220 formed on a projection element substrate #222.

For full details, review Apple's patent application 20240077648.

10.51FX - Patent Application Bar


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