Could Apple be working on a three-dimensional camera system for its future iOS devices? Three patents that the Cupertino-based company has filed with the U.S. Patent and and Trademark Office indicate that it is indeed exploring the possibility of a 3-D camera.
3-D cameras have not proven to be popular additions to smartphones, as the HTC EVO 3D ended up with a lukewarm reception, but the popularity of the iPhone and the iPad could skyrocket the 3-D concept to new levels.
These are the three patents that Apple filed:
- Image Capture Using Three-Dimensional Reconstruction
- Systems, Methods, and Computer-Readable Media for Placing an Asset on a Three-Dimensional Model
- Systems, Methods, and Computer-Readable Media for Integrating a Three-Dimensional Asset with a Three-Dimensional Model
Apple’s first application indicates a system that works much like the Evo 3D. It entails capturing a 3-D image, with three 3-D sensors that can approximate the distances of objects, but that cannot accurately reproduce a three-dimensional shape
The sensors would capture both polarized and non-polarized images, which would be used by the processor to determine depth information, accurately re-creating 3-D scenes.
Alternatively, an image sensor using a polarized filter would use two other sensors to capture luminance images, which would give the processor another way to figure out the depth of a scene.
Apple’s other two patents cover a system that could potentially scan a user’s face to recreate their appearance as a virtual, three-dimensional avatar.
Accompanying illustrations depict an interface that is similar to Photo Booth, which explores a user’s face and then re-creates it as a cartoon-like avatar.
Avatar creation is an idea that Apple has focused on in previous patents, and its believed that this could be related to future Game Center enhancements. Apple’s experimental 3-D cameras could be used to measure the depth of facial features, which would then create a remarkably lifelike avatar.
Apple’s 3-D camera is also described as being able to recognize both facial expressions and gestures, which could usher in a whole new era of hands-free navigation and gaming. It remains to be seen what Apple will actually do with this 3-D technology, but it has a lot of fascinating potential that could make future iOS devices utterly amazing.
[via Patently Apple]