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Apple patents three-sensor, three-lens iPhone camera for enhanced color photos

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a patent for a camera system that uses three separate sensors, one for luminance and two for chrominance, to generate images with both higher resolution and color accuracy.

Tri-Sensor
Source: USPTO


Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,497,897 for "Image capture using luminance and chrominance sensors" describes a unique multi-sensor camera system that can be used in portable devices like the iPhone.

The main thrust of the patent is to combine three separate images generated by one luminance sensor disposed between two chrominance sensors. Each sensor has a "lens train," or lens assembly, in front of it that directs light toward the sensor surface. The document notes that the sensors can be disposed on a single circuit board, or separated.

Important to system's functionality is sensor layout. In most embodiments, the luminance sensor is flanked on two sides by the chrominance sensors. This positioning allows the camera to compare information sourced from three generated images. For example, an image processing module can take raw data from the three sensors, comprising luminance, color, and other data, to form a composite color picture. The resulting photo would be of higher quality than a system using a single unified sensor.

To execute an effective comparison of the two chrominance sensor images, a stereo map is created so that differences, or redundancies, can be measured. Depending on the situation and system setup (filters, pixel count, etc.), the stereo map is processed and combined with data from the luminance sensor to create an accurate scene representation.

Tri-Sensor
Source: USPTO


The stereo map also solves a "blind spot" issue that arises when using three sensors with three lens trains. The patent offers the example of an object in the foreground obscuring an object in the background (as seen in the first illustration). Depending on the scene, color information may be non-existent for one sensor, which would negatively affect a photo's resolution.

To overcome this inherent flaw, one embodiment proposes the two chrominance sensors be offset so that their blind regions do not overlap. If a nearby object creates a blind region for a first sensor, the offset will allow for the image processor to replace compromised image data with information from a second sensor.

Further, the image processor can use the stereo disparity map created from data generated by the two chrominance sensor images to compensate for distortion.

Other embodiments call for varied resolutions or lens configurations for the chrominance and luminance sensors, including larger apertures, different filters, or modified image data collection. These features could enhance low-light picture taking, for example, by compensating for lack of luminance with information provided by a modified chrominance sensor. Here, as with the above embodiments, the image processor is required to compile data from all three sensors.

While Apple is unlikely to implement the three-sensor camera tech anytime soon, a future iPhone could theoretically carry such a platform.

Apple's luminance and chrominance sensor patent was first filed for in 2010 and credits David S. Gere as its inventor.
post #2 of 22
Fun patent. It would be possible to have for example 12Mpix x3 setup for 36mpix camera.

I doubt however that Apple will use 3 lenses. It would cost to much. (even if it just cost 1 dollar. Apple sells 120 million iphones per year. That is almost 300 million in extra cost)
post #3 of 22
@shompa - no need to worry:

- Samsung will have a phone using it before Apple;
- Apple will sue;
- Nokia will sue Apple because they're doing something "similar" in Lumia, first;
- Sony will jump at the chance to say they thought of it first;
- Engadget, Verge, Ars and countless other sites will claim it as "obvious";
- Fans of Android will claim to have seen the same sensor on Star-Trek in 1971, so "prior art";
- Any and all lawsuits will drag out for 5 years;
- USPTO will invalidate Apple's original patent;

Summary: not worth the time or ink to register the patent.

End. Of. Story.

/s
Knowing what you are talking about would help you understand why you are so wrong. By "Realistic" - AI Forum Member
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Knowing what you are talking about would help you understand why you are so wrong. By "Realistic" - AI Forum Member
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post #4 of 22
Is this like Photoshop's LAB mode?
post #5 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThePixelDoc View Post

@shompa - no need to worry:

- Samsung will have a phone using it before Apple;
- Apple will sue;
- Nokia will sue Apple because they're doing something "similar" in Lumia, first;
- Sony will jump at the chance to say they thought of it first;
- Engadget, Verge, Ars and countless other sites will claim it as "obvious";
- Fans of Android will claim to have seen the same sensor on Star-Trek in 1971, so "prior art";
- Any and all lawsuits will drag out for 5 years;
- USPTO will invalidate Apple's original patent;

Summary: not worth the time or ink to register the patent.

End. Of. Story.

/s

Best post of the day 1biggrin.gif
Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, my opinion, man.
Reply
Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, my opinion, man.
Reply
post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThePixelDoc View Post

@shompa - no need to worry:

- Samsung will have a phone using it before Apple;
- Apple will sue;
- Nokia will sue Apple because they're doing something "similar" in Lumia, first;
- Sony will jump at the chance to say they thought of it first;
- Engadget, Verge, Ars and countless other sites will claim it as "obvious";
- Fans of Android will claim to have seen the same sensor on Star-Trek in 1971, so "prior art";
- Any and all lawsuits will drag out for 5 years;
- USPTO will invalidate Apple's original patent;

Summary: not worth the time or ink to register the patent.

End. Of. Story.

/s

Apple's patent filings are Samsung's R&D.
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini, SE30, IIFx, Towers; G4 & G3.
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Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini, SE30, IIFx, Towers; G4 & G3.
Reply
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThePixelDoc View Post

@shompa - no need to worry:

- Samsung will have a phone using it before Apple;
- Apple will sue;
- Nokia will sue Apple because they're doing something "similar" in Lumia, first;
- Sony will jump at the chance to say they thought of it first;
- Engadget, Verge, Ars and countless other sites will claim it as "obvious";
- Fans of Android will claim to have seen the same sensor on Star-Trek in 1971, so "prior art";
- Any and all lawsuits will drag out for 5 years;
- USPTO will invalidate Apple's original patent;

Summary: not worth the time or ink to register the patent.

End. Of. Story.

/s

WELL said! Sad but TRUE!

 

Then again, every Android based phone / tablet maker has been losing $$ but Samsung. No wonder.

....the lack of properly optimized apps is one of the reasons "why the experience on Android tablets is so crappy".

Tim Cook ~ The Wall Street Journal - February 7, 2014

Inside Google! 

Reply

....the lack of properly optimized apps is one of the reasons "why the experience on Android tablets is so crappy".

Tim Cook ~ The Wall Street Journal - February 7, 2014

Inside Google! 

Reply
post #8 of 22
Hoping to see this as a landmark feature for the iPhone 6. It's amazing this patent is 3 years old an technology hasn't been able to support this idea until now.
post #9 of 22

Psh. My Sprint Samsung Galaxy X Fire LTE HD with SprintCast has a camera with moar megapixels. That's the only important camera number.

 

/s

 

AnalogJack View Post
Is this like Photoshop's LAB mode?

Only if iOS allows apps to capture more sensor data than the current default: 8-bit jpeg.

[this account has been abandoned]

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[this account has been abandoned]

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post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vorsos View Post

Psh. My Sprint Samsung Galaxy X Fire LTE HD with SprintCast

lol.gif
post #11 of 22
Samsung needs a few scandals on the order of the IRS, et. al. Something internal that proves they've broken laws internationally.

Originally posted by Marvin

Even if [the 5.5” iPhone exists], it doesn’t deserve to.
Reply

Originally posted by Marvin

Even if [the 5.5” iPhone exists], it doesn’t deserve to.
Reply
post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThePixelDoc View Post

@shompa - no need to worry:

- Samsung will have a phone using it before Apple;
- Apple will sue;
- Nokia will sue Apple because they're doing something "similar" in Lumia, first;
- Sony will jump at the chance to say they thought of it first;
- Engadget, Verge, Ars and countless other sites will claim it as "obvious";
- Fans of Android will claim to have seen the same sensor on Star-Trek in 1971, so "prior art";
- Any and all lawsuits will drag out for 5 years;
- USPTO will invalidate Apple's original patent;

Summary: not worth the time or ink to register the patent.

End. Of. Story.

/s

So Apple didn't think through all of this and is just being stupid? Damn you're so much smarter than Cook et al.

post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackbook View Post

Hoping to see this as a landmark feature for the iPhone 6. It's amazing this patent is 3 years old an technology hasn't been able to support this idea until now.

 

A very large percentage of these types of patents will never find their way into a production device, but you patent them anyway to prevent anyone else from using it. Unless you are going to do something special with the offset information (ie, use it to improve focusing, which I don't think was mentioned), there are probably better/simpler ways to improve picture quality than having this complex of a system. For example, in the space that 3 10 megapixle sensors take up, you could make a single, larger 10 megapixel sensor with much larger individual pixels resulting in vastly better low light capabilities. Of course, that might require a deeper lens assembly not compatible with Apple's thinness goals.

Anyway, the point being that just because something is patented doesn't always make it a good idea. But who knows, it might lead to some interesting capabilities down the road.
post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Samsung needs a few scandals on the order of the IRS, et. al. Something internal that proves they've broken laws internationally.

Indeed. Samsung is kind of smarting that Congress is not after them for tax minimization. They so want to copy Apple on that front, too.

post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by shompa View Post

I doubt however that Apple will use 3 lenses. It would cost to much. (even if it just cost 1 dollar. Apple sells 120 million iphones per year. That is almost 300 million in extra cost)

Cost too much? You realize that amount is less than .2% of their 2012 revenues? Or less than .85% of their revenues from last quarter. It's a miniscule drop in the bucket.

post #16 of 22
Apple just invents rounded rectangles. /s

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
Reply

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
Reply
post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by shompa View Post

Fun patent. It would be possible to have for example 12Mpix x3 setup for 36mpix camera.

I doubt however that Apple will use 3 lenses. It would cost to much. (even if it just cost 1 dollar. Apple sells 120 million iphones per year. That is almost 300 million in extra cost)

 

I don't think it will be anytime soon, but eventually Apple will use multiple sensors as will everyone else.  The more lenses the higher the megapixels as you noted, but it also allows for interesting effects and capabilities.  It's the basis of the Lytro camera for example, and a device with a small cluster of lenses like a compound eye, could easily take pictures that equal, and even *best* SLR quality.  

 

At the moment the the chief limiting factor of small cameras is the lack of the SLR's giant optics.  Small plastic or even glass lenses just can't compete.  Cameras with compound or multiple lenses however will theoretically eliminate that factor in the near future as well as bringing features that an SLR will never, and can never have through image processing.  

post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

I don't think it will be anytime soon, but eventually Apple will use multiple sensors as will everyone else.  The more lenses the higher the megapixels as you noted, but it also allows for interesting effects and capabilities.  It's the basis of the Lytro camera for example, and a device with a small cluster of lenses like a compound eye, could easily take pictures that equal, and even *best* SLR quality.  

 

At the moment the the chief limiting factor of small cameras is the lack of the SLR's giant optics.  Small plastic or even glass lenses just can't compete.  Cameras with compound or multiple lenses however will theoretically eliminate that factor in the near future as well as bringing features that an SLR will never, and can never have through image processing.  

This.

 

Apple wants the iPhone to be the best camera phone in the world.  Theirs is  a world of full range dSLRs for professionals, 4/3rds dSLRs for prosumers, iPhones, and crap cameras.   As phone components become less expensive and ARM chips more computationally powerful, camera technology will be critical for 3 reasons.

1) replace HDR with instant technology

2) improve low light pictures

3) better recognition of objects, places and faces  (visual Siri... "That picture you just took of your mother... she looks jaundiced... want me to call her doctor?")

post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by shompa View Post

Fun patent. It would be possible to have for example 12Mpix x3 setup for 36mpix camera.

I doubt however that Apple will use 3 lenses. It would cost to much. (even if it just cost 1 dollar. Apple sells 120 million iphones per year. That is almost 300 million in extra cost)

When weighing an increase in cost, you need to compare it against potential increases in revenues attributed to the new additions.
post #20 of 22

This will never happen.  Someone else may try it, but they'll fail.  There are lots of theoretical issues to resolve, ranging from properly computing the location of reflections, reconstructing color information lost due to them, and the solution to the blind spot is not a solution at all, because color information is irreversibly lost in this stereo setup.

 

Patents are always worth registering for big companies like Apple, they cost less than what those companies pay for toilet paper in a single week and they can be used defensively.

post #21 of 22
Apple one day might have single best camera on the market...

Introducing Icamera: has 48 single cameras to produce 16 single amazing photos, or a single panama video of 2.3 gigapixels with built in Bluetooth to connect to device; 1 terra-byte hard drive and it being a full helmet at just under 5 pounds, showing every human viewing angle for you for hours of time (6 hour battery life on full camera video); Can you see what I see?

/s
post #22 of 22

According to Apple the iphone is the most popular camera in the world :-) iphone features

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