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Apple's 3D Depth Camera Team Invent a new Miniaturized Hybrid Scanning Module

10.7 - New Patents
1af 55 cover


Intel's RealSense Camera is one, if not the industry's first 3D depth camera being incorporated into PC's and mobile devices that incorporate a depth scanner. When you go to Intel's RealSense webpage, the first thing you'll see on the page is a clear statement that reads: 'Imagine, Create. Scan. Share.' It's the technology behind Windows Hello, which is a Windows 10 feature that allows a display with a RealSense camera to use facial recognition to assist a user to login without typing in a password. And the scanner is lighting fast. Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that derived from their Israeli PrimeSense team. They were legendary for their 3D depth cameras that were used in Microsoft's Kinect device. And now, we may see their first 3D camera land on the iPhone 7 in September and later in the year on the iPad and/or iPad Pro. Today's patent application covers their latest miniaturized hybrid scanning module. 


2af 88 hybrid scanning module


Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a schematic, pictorial illustration of a scanning device comprising a hybrid scanning module; FIG. 2 is a schematic rear view of the scanning module of FIG. 1; and FIG. 4 is a schematic, pictorial illustration of an alternative hybrid scanning module using a single larger mirror instead of two smaller mirrors.


The patent filing reveals several patents are being incorporated into this newest filing under number 20160238834. One of the incorporated patents describes "a scanning depth engine, which includes a transmitter, which emits a beam comprising pulses of light, and a scanner, which is configured to scan the beam, within a predefined scan range, over a scene."


The scanner may comprise a micromirror produced using MEMS technology. A receiver receives the light reflected from the scene and generates an output indicative of the time of flight of the pulses to and from points in the scene. A processor is coupled to control the scanner and to process the output of the receiver so as to generate a 3D map of the scene – just as our cover graphic is conveying.


The patent is a highly technical one describing their latest hybrid scanner module invention in depth and you could review it in full here. Apple filed for this patent in Q1 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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