In March Patently Apple posted an IP report titled " Apple is working on bringing Face ID to Macs for user Authentication, Face Gesture Recognition and more." Last summer Apple was granted a patent covering in-air gesture recognition for Macs. Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to an advanced version of Apple's TrueDepth camera working on Macs, especially an iMac at first, that will be able to understand user in-air hand gestures to control content on the display.
Apple notes that Time-Of-Flight (TOF) imaging techniques are used in many depth mapping systems (also referred to as 3D mapping or 3D imaging). For depth mapping with fine distance resolution, very fine temporal resolution of the TOF is needed.
Apple's invention covers a sensing device, including a first array of sensing elements. Each sensing element is configured to output a signal indicative of a time of incidence of a single photon on the sensing element during a certain gating interval in each of a succession acquisition periods.
The depth map is typically conveyed to a receiving device #46, such as a display for a computer such as an iMac, which segments and extracts high-level information from the depth map.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic side view of a depth mapping device #20, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. In the pictured embodiment, device #20 is used to generate depth maps of an object #22, for example a part of the body of a user of the device for purposes of gesture recognition.
To generate the depth map, an illumination assembly #24 directs pulses of light toward the object and an imaging assembly #26 measures the TOF of the photons reflected from the object.
The term "light," as used in this patent refers to optical radiation, which may be in any of the visible, infrared, and ultraviolet ranges. The illumination assembly typically comprises a pulsed laser #28, which emits short pulses of light, with pulse duration in the picosecond range and repetition frequency in the range of 1-10 MHz. Collection optics #30 direct the light toward the object.
Apple's patent application that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Q1 2020. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.