Apple is hard at work creating a rear-facing 3D laser system to add to the back of a future iPhone, according to Fast Company. The new system will reportedly allow for more accurate depth detection for augmented reality apps.
The tech giant announced a new augmented reality development kit back in June, which made some believe that AR features would be added to iPhones eventually. As it turns out, they were right.
The new sensor system will not only enhance augmented reality apps, but will also enable a new and improved type of autofocus for taking pictures, a source told Fast Company.
“The source said the VSCEL laser system may be intended for the 10th anniversary iPhone (which may be called the iPhone 8 or the iPhone Pro or, hopefully, the iPhone X),” the publication reported. “Whether the sensor will be included in that phone, or a 2018 iPhone, depends on the progress the Apple engineers make in integrating the laser system into the phone, our source says.”
A VSCEL laser system is made up of a source, lens, detector, and processor. It’s able to find the distance the light travels on its way from the laser to the target and back. That calculation leaves you with a Time of Flight (TOF) measurement. The technology is predicted to cost about $2 per phone.
As far as the camera goes, the laser system would enhance its functionalities. Laser autofocus systems provide a more precise way of measuring whatever is in the frame that what Apple phone’s currently use. The laser emits light beams that reflect off objects and returns to the sensor, revealing the depth of field. This allows the camera lens to focus in milliseconds, according to Fast Company.
Google, Huawei, OnePlus, and Asus all utilize laser autofocus systems in their smartphones. Right now, iPhones use phase detection autofocus, which compares the light rays shining into opposite sides of the lens before comparing them to figure out if the lens if focusing too far away or too closely.
Apple reportedly declined comment on the topic.
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