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Apple patents multi-point camera focusing system for multitouch-equipped devices

post #1 of 20
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Apple was awarded a patent on Thursday for a multi-point focusing system that integrates with devices capable of multitouch input, possibly pointing to future use of the technology in a next-generation iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

The awarded U.S. patent No. 2012/0120227 for "multi-point touch focus" describes a system that lets the user of a camera-equipped device select two or more areas of focus on a touchscreen which, when a picture is taken, are passed through a dedicated image processor to produce optimal sharpness and exposure for both regions.

The patent background mentions that as the capabilities of automated image capturing progresses, so do the "possibilities for capturing images not as desired by the photographer." To solve this dilemma, Apple proposes a solution that combines multitouch input, live-preview imaging and advanced auto-focusing algorithms and tracking assets.

From the patent abstract:

A camera includes a lens arranged to focus an image on an image sensor and a touch sensitive visual display for freely selecting two or more regions of interest on a live preview image by touch input. An image processor is coupled to the image sensor and the touch sensitive visual display. The image processor displays the live preview image according to the image focused on the image sensor by the lens. The image processor further receives the selection the regions of interest and controls acquisition of the image from the image sensor based on the characteristics of the image in regions that correspond to at least two of the regions of interest on the live preview image. The image processor may optimize sharpness and/or exposure of the image in at least two of the regions of interest. The image processor may track movement of the selected regions of interest.


As seen above, the patent calls for an image processor that continuously tracks the user-defined "regions of interest" in a combination of live image processing and auto-focus technology similar to that found in the iPhone 4S. Unlike the current handset, however, the focus will not be limited to center-weighting or face-detection and will in theory choose the best mix of camera settings to achieve the highest possible clarity in the multiple selected areas.

In order to facilitate the multi-point focus acquisition, the dedicated imaging processor calculates the two or more user-defined regions and adjusts the camera's focus drive to change the distance between the image sensor and the rear element of the lens. In addition, the regions' sizes can be changed on-the-fly by pinching the touchscreen, which will change how the imaging processor will weight the photo's overall focus.

Also noted was the ability to perform exposure adjustments using the "regions of interest" multi-point method. Currently, the third-party Camera+ app allows users to spot-meter a live image, but Apple's solution would take that functionality a step further by introducing multiple metering points.

Focus Patent
Illustration of pinching to change "region of interest" size in Apple's multi-point touch focusing patent.
Source: USPTO


Because the system requires a significant amount of computing power, the patent suggests that a dedicated chip be used to process the raw sensor data as well as control the camera's operation. Past iDevices have all used the main SoC to process image data and a dedicated chip would likely yield quicker operation and higher quality pictures.

Apple took a giant step forward in mobile camera design with the 8MP unit found in the iPhone 4S. Reworked optics, a backlit sensor and an inline image signal processor are used to create images many consumers believe to be the best in the smartphone market.

It is unclear whether Apple will implement the newly patented technology in the next-gen iPhone rumored to debut sometime this fall, but the size of the imaging sensor, dedicated processing unit and new optics may be too large to fit into the expectedly thin chassis.
post #2 of 20

This just in:

 

Apple is also entering the handgun market.

 

They'll be producing a beautiful, magical, revolutionary, yet user-friendly weapon called the 'iGat', that allows you to multi-aim and shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot.

 

apple-mac-and-the-gun-23.jpg


Edited by GTR - 5/19/12 at 1:49am
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post #3 of 20
Dedicated chip makes sense, so does dedicated memory. The true ground breaking will be instant on and zero shutter lag rather than more mega pixels.
post #4 of 20

Sounds a bit Lytro-esque. Not a copy, but a unique implementation to get a similar effect.

For your sake, I hope you're right.
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For your sake, I hope you're right.
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post #5 of 20

That multitouch camera thing sounds really awesome. One thing I've always missed on my iPhone's camera (in addition to a crazy zoom that DSLRs offer) is the ability to do some creative work with depth of field. I wish it were easier (or even possible) to have the subject be sharp and the background very blurry when taking the picture.

post #6 of 20
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Originally Posted by GTR View Post
apple-mac-and-the-gun-23.jpg

 

How long have you had THAT one sitting around?! lol.gif

post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTR View Post

This just in:

Apple is also entering the handgun market.

They'll be producing a beautiful, magical, revolutionary, yet user-friendly weapon called the 'iGat', that allows you to multi-aim and shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot.

[image: http://forums.appleinsider.com/image/id/164822/width/450/height/333/flags/LL[/URL]
There is no way Ive designed that. That thing has a Linux feel to it. While explains why the Uzi has high performance but also has a high tendency to lock up.

I'd say the P90 is the Apple of fireams, specifically the PS90 version from 2005.

189

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carthusia View Post

Sounds a bit Lytro-esque. Not a copy, but a unique implementation to get a similar effect.
I was thinking quite the opposite. With Lytro you don't have to touch the screen to focus on an element prior to shooting and it can only focus on one area at a time. Lytro is capturing all the light spectrums and then letting you focus on the one area you wish after the fact. Apple's patent seems to have found away to allow multiple focus areas to be stitched at once into a single, static capture.

PS: While Lytro is cool I think they dropped the ball in their design. The whole thing looks cheap and feels awkward to hold. I was disappointed by that.

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post #8 of 20
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Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post
PS: While Lytro is cool I think they dropped the ball in their design. The whole thing looks cheap and feels awkward to hold. I was disappointed by that.


Exactly! It's a square; who wants to hold a square?!

 

If you're going to do that, at least make it look like a gun, for heaven's sake. Give us a handle for it and make every cop and Secret Service agent in the world paranoid.

post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple was awarded a patent on Thursday for a multi-point focusing system that integrates with devices capable of multitouch input, possibly pointing to future use of the technology in a next-generation iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
The awarded U.S. patent No. 2012/0120227 for "multi-point touch focus" describes a system that lets the user of a camera-equipped device select two or more areas of focus on a touchscreen which, when a picture is taken, are passed through a dedicated image processor to produce optimal sharpness and exposure for both regions.

Apple’s application was published, not patented.

post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Law Talkin' Guy View Post

Apple’s application was published, not patented.

Aww, close enough to a patent to sue somebody with it. 

 

 

BTW, did anyone notice the much improved illustrations in this patent filing. No more drawings done by a pre-teen.

"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
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"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
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post #11 of 20
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Originally Posted by Macky the Macky View Post

Aww, close enough to a patent to sue somebody with it. 

 

 

BTW, did anyone notice the much improved illustrations in this patent filing. No more drawings done by a pre-teen.

 

um.....no you can not sue someone on a patent application until it issues.  At this point, we don't even know if they will get a patent.  In addition, the claims in applications almost never issue without amendment. 

post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Macky the Macky View Post

Aww, close enough to a patent to sue somebody with it. 

 

 

BTW, did anyone notice the much improved illustrations in this patent filing. No more drawings done by a pre-teen.

Ironically, the photo in the image sums up your post quite well.

post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

How long have you had THAT one sitting around?! lol.gif

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


There is no way Ive designed that. 

 

189

 

Actually, I was originally looking for an image of a handgun that would fall within the definition of being 'beautiful' (as Solipsism X mentioned). However, I came across that on Google, and thought it was rather amusing.
 
My mind: It's easily amused. ;-)
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post #14 of 20

You guys and your teensy weapons. Everyone knows that Apple's weapon of choice is thermal nuclear.

"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
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post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

There is no way Ive designed that. That thing has a Linux feel to it. While explains why the Uzi has high performance but also has a high tendency to lock up.
It's a MAC-10 not an Uzi (hence the pun)
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post #16 of 20

The Lytro comments go directly where my mind went when I saw this.  Wouldn't be surprised if Apple licenses the tech from them and incorporates that with their current camera system.  Since they are using HDRI techniques now the Lytro could be used as a pass and the multi-touch could be used to guide a procedural blurring of the areas not in focus in the non-Lytro passes.

post #17 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Imhotep397 View Post

The Lytro comments go directly where my mind went when I saw this.  Wouldn't be surprised if Apple licenses the tech from them and incorporates that with their current camera system.

The tech is different. Lytro captures the image and then you use external software to determine a SINGLE focus point (so in theory you can never have an out of focus image). The Apple patent is to capture MULTIPLE AREAS and bring them all into focus IN CAMERA. Which sounds odd since with the tiny sensor and large DOF, most parts of the image will be in focus anyway. Of far more use is being able to expose for multiple areas and combine them - this being true HDR ability.

Shut up and go away, you useless, pathetic FUDmonger - Tallest Skil
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post #18 of 20

the ability to have different focal points and to get all in focus by adjusting the aperture (and hence, DOF)  is not really new is it.. (canon a-dep mode, as an example).

 

Seems like it's something that already exists but they are simply patenting the method of selecting the points and, with the proliferation of multi-touch screens, this is also hardly new..?

 

I am wondering why any patent office would award Apple a patent? Perhaps this is the reason why we have so many patent wars...
 

post #19 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by fz750 View Post

the ability to have different focal points and to get all in focus by adjusting the aperture (and hence, DOF)  is not really new is it.. (canon a-dep mode, as an example).

 

Seems like it's something that already exists but they are simply patenting the method of selecting the points and, with the proliferation of multi-touch screens, this is also hardly new..?

 

I am wondering why any patent office would award Apple a patent? Perhaps this is the reason why we have so many patent wars...
 

Yes, quite a few Canon and Nikon DSLR's already process's this technology but I think this is marketed just towards phones with touch capabilities which I haven't seen yet, at least not multiple selection points, one yes. I think the new Nokia Proview is the only phone right now that has two selection points available for foreground and background tweaking. Which I'm counting the days to get one, June can't come fast enough.


Edited by Relic - 5/21/12 at 5:54am
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post #20 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rothgarr View Post

That multitouch camera thing sounds really awesome. One thing I've always missed on my iPhone's camera (in addition to a crazy zoom that DSLRs offer) is the ability to do some creative work with depth of field. I wish it were easier (or even possible) to have the subject be sharp and the background very blurry when taking the picture.

Have you seen this;

 

iPhone 8x Zoom

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