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Apple Working On Long Range ‘3D Camera’ For 2019 iPhone

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The iPhone will be completely redesigned in 2020, but until then we know Apple AAPL -10.02%’s design plans are modest with a focus on official price cuts. So how will the company generate excitement for its 2019 iPhones? Now we know…

In a major scoop, Bloomberg has revealed Apple is working with Sony to integrate long distance 3D cameras into its next-generation iPhones. This is technology, with the potential to transform photography, security and gaming. Furthermore, the source couldn’t be better: Bloomberg spoke to Sony itself.

Apple iPhone XI conceptConcept Creator

“Cameras revolutionized phones, and based on what I’ve seen, I have the same expectation for 3D [cameras],” said Satoshi Yoshihara, head of Sony’s sensor division, when speaking with Bloomberg.

Bloomberg reveals Apple’s interest in incorporating the technology and Yoshihara subsequently confirmed its commercial availability. Yoshihara said Sony will have front and rear-facing 3D cameras ready in 2019 with the company “kicking off mass production in late summer to meet demand”.

With Apple’s next-generation iPhones launching in September, this should make you very excited indeed.

Differentiating itself from rivals, Sony’s 3D cameras use ‘Time of Flight’ technology (previously used only in industry). It sends out invisible laser pulses and measures the time before they bounce back to build detailed 3D models of objects up to five metres away.

What can this be used for? In photographic terms, it can bring focus to every part of a picture almost instantaneously and even track objects at night. For security, it can map a user’s face for high-grade facial mapping and unlocking – something which could cut down the complicated multi-sensor array used in Apple’s Face ID and thereby shrink or (eventually) remove the notch.

Sony’s 3D Camera technology created detailed maps of objects up to 5 metres awayBloomberg

Lastly, Sony told Bloomberg about the interactive potential of its long distance 3D cameras. They can be used to map rooms and objects for AR and VR experiences, as well as users themselves so – for example – their hands can manipulate a gaming environment and fight or (as Sony demoed to Bloomberg) make gestures to cast spells.

Apple already uses a short-range 3D camera for its so-called ‘TrueDepth Camera’ but implementing Sony’s technology would deliver a radical step forward which has the potential to change how we use cameras on smartphones.

“The most important thing in the coming year will be to get people excited,” Yoshihara said. And, along with the return of a previously cancelled feature, it seems this will be Apple’s big bet for its next iPhones…


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