The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 47 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover another 3D mapping patent. Apple's iPhone 7 is to introduce a dual lens camera system. The advantage of such a camera provides photographers with a new level of editing depth not available in traditional cameras. A 3D mapped photo can be re-edited to change the focus of a photo or to be able to measure the distance between two objects in a photo with deadly accuracy. You could review Intel's RealSense 3D camera information about "Depth Enabled Photography in Action" here to get a better sense of what could be coming to the iPhone 7 this year. Intel's overview of their 3D camera found here illustrates that 3D depth cameras could also be used as a biometric feature for accurate facial recognition and much, much more.
Granted Patent: Reference Image Techniques for 3D Sensing
Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to imaging systems, and specifically to imaging systems using reference images for three-dimensional mapping.
Apple's granted patent notes that "System #100 comprises an image sensor 114, also termed external camera 114, which is separate from device #102. The external camera is typically of a significantly higher quality than the device camera. Thus, the two cameras typically have at least one different optical characteristic, such as different fields of view, different resolutions, different signal to noise ratios, or different dynamic ranges. The external camera is used for generating the reference image
Apple's invention produces an enhanced quality reference image for a device that generates a three-dimensional (3D) map of a test object. The device projects a pattern onto a calibration object, and captures an image of the projected pattern as the reference image. The pattern is then projected onto the test object and the device images the projected pattern. The device measures transverse shifts in the imaged pattern of the test object, compared to the reference image, to generate a 3D map of the test object.
In some embodiments, the pattern is formed using coherent radiation. Speckles in the reference image, caused by non-specularity or roughness in the calibration object, are removed by applying a small relative motion between the device and the calibration object. Removal of the speckles enhances the quality of the reference image.
In some embodiments the reference image is formed by capturing two different images of the pattern projected onto the calibration object. The different images are registered with each other, and the enhanced quality reference image is generated from the registered images.
A smartphone from Lenovo using Google's Project Tango technology is coming to market this fall. Their multi-lens 3D-Depth camera will be used for AR applications which is something Apple has been working on as well over the years. So the new iPhone 7 camera system is really going to be one of the key advancements coming this fall.
Apple's granted patent 9,386,299 was filed in Q2 2014 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Apple acquired this patent from PrimeSense. Many other 3D mapping patents could be found in our archives here.
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