Apple's laser-powered 'depth perception' system can be used for virtual keyboard, camera autofocus

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
A patent application discovered on Thursday reveals Apple is looking into a system that combines lasers with image sensors to measure both the distance to an object and its depth, allowing for the creation of new virtual device input and camera autofocus technologies.

Laser System
Source: USPTO


The invention, first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in July 2011, is titled "Depth perception device and system" and calls for a two-part solution that leverages the accuracy of lasers and modern imaging sensors to determine distance and depth.

As noted in the patent's summary, the system can utilize a "fan shaped laser beam" in conjunction with an imaging system like a digital camera to calculate depth. In order to work, the laser beam must be varied in shape and intersect with at least a portion of the camera's field of view. This variation allow for an accurate determination of distance away from an object, as well as certain physical attributes of said object, based on how the laser interacts with the scene.

Because laser light behaves in a fairly predictable way, an imaging sensor can monitor a field of view, observing how the laser reflects off of objects and returns to the sensor. After a number of variables are accounted for, like the offset of the laser source in respect to the camera, the captured reflected light is processed to determine the depth of each object. There are multiple arrangements covered for the laser, camera and lens, including one embodiment that calls for off-axis laser firing.

From the patent's description:
In one example, the image capturing device may take a first image with the laser source turned off so that the beam is not present and then may take a second image with the laser source turned on and with the beam projected. The processor may then analyze the two images to extract an image of the beam alone. In another example, the image capturing device may include a filter such as a wavelength or optical filter and may filter out wavelengths different from the beam wavelength. In this example, the beam may be isolated or removed from other aspects of the image. The isolation of the beam may assist in evaluating the resulting shape or deformed shape of the beam to determine object depth.
Depth
Laser is within the camera's field of view.


The patent lists a number of scenarios where such technology can be applied. For example, the system can be used to create a two-dimensional representation of a scene, or a surface map of a specific object.

Going further, the system can be embedded in a computer or a mobile device, with Apple's iPhone mentioned by name. Specifically, the invention can be used in concert with a "projected control panel" to create a virtual keyboard or other types of virtual controls. In this embodiment, a light pattern is projected onto a surface and the depth perception system is used to determine the positioning of a user's fingers.

Unlike so-called "laser keyboards" on sale today, Apple's system uses controlled laser light to determine depth as well as distance. Most products on the market use red or other colored lasers to project the virtual keyboard, while distance is determined through the use of an infrared diode.

In addition to the above uses, the depth perception system can also be used as a trigger for various functions of a laptop or desktop computer, such as power save mode.

Computer Trigger
Illustration of computer trigger embodiment.


Finally, the patent notes the invention can be used to auto focus a camera by determining the distance away from an object and adjusting the lens element to focus at that depth.

The depth perception system patent application credits David S. Gere as its inventor.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,438member
    That left-handed botox-bitch is also still waiting for her new iMac.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    ^ win comment

    ... It looks like a likely technology to use in the future Apple TV as well...
  • Reply 3 of 22









    Computer Trigger

     



     


    I so don't want to bump into her in a dark alley! 



    image

  • Reply 4 of 22
    haarhaar Posts: 563member
    austin powers.... lasers on frickin' sharks!....

    Dr. Evil: You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?
    Number Two: Sea Bass.
    Dr. Evil: [pause] Right.
    Number Two: They're mutated sea bass.
    Dr. Evil: Are they ill tempered?
    Number Two: Absolutely.
    Dr. Evil: Oh well, that's a start.


    [URL]http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118655/quotes?qt=qt0367888[/URL]
  • Reply 5 of 22
    allenbfallenbf Posts: 993member


  • Reply 6 of 22
    allenbfallenbf Posts: 993member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by haar View Post



    austin powers.... lasers on frickin' sharks!....



    Dr. Evil: You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?

    Number Two: Sea Bass.

    Dr. Evil: [pause] Right.

    Number Two: They're mutated sea bass.

    Dr. Evil: Are they ill tempered?

    Number Two: Absolutely.

    Dr. Evil: Oh well, that's a start.





    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118655/quotes?qt=qt0367888


     


     


    lol, great minds think alike, eh?

  • Reply 7 of 22
    mobiusmobius Posts: 377member


    206b - Operator's right boob. That's some cup size O.O

  • Reply 8 of 22


    Didn't have my glasses on... thought it said "death perception" and I thought, "I'm not sure if I'd want to use software that had that ability!".

     

  • Reply 9 of 22

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Mobius View Post


    206b - Operator's right boob. That's some cup size O.O





    Right boob? It looks like a mono boob to me.

  • Reply 10 of 22
    malaxmalax Posts: 1,598member


    Apple would never have submitted a patent application with a picture that bad if SJ were still running the show


    /s

  • Reply 11 of 22
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,720member


    An interesting idea.    Makes one wonder if that laser could also be used to improve the camera bar code reading ability.   Not that it does bad now, but there is always room for improvement.  


     


    As it is I'm not having autofocus issues so nothing to get excited about here.  Frankly I want to see a real optical zoom on the iPhone.   I could go for that even if that meant a thicker iPhone or an iPhone with a bump on it.   Nothing beats an old fashioned optical zoom for getting high quality pictures.  

  • Reply 12 of 22

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Mobius View Post


    206b - Operator's right boob. That's some cup size O.O



     


     


    No boobs , please, we are British ! :


     


     


     


    ACD Systems Digital Imaging

  • Reply 13 of 22
    wizard69 wrote: »
    Nothing beats an old fashioned optical zoom for getting high quality pictures.  

    Some people are going to suggest a SLR.

    True, quality - picture quality-wise - comes from quality optics (more glass is better). But a higher quality picture, you know, the end result, the picture, meaning the light, framing, setting, meaning of the artist/photographer is all in the hands of the artist/photographer. Since it isn't the camera that takes the picture you know...

    Read Chase Jarvis, Ken Rockwell, heck, get inspired from Ansel Adams. Well, you know what I mean...if you know what I mean.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member
    Sure. It's possible that Apple could use this technology in a future product.
    But it's also possible that Apple could be blocking its use in a future Xbox.
    The Xbox 360 uses some kind of laser dot projection technology (which I
    think is inferior to analysis of the scene as viewed by an actual camera.)
  • Reply 15 of 22
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,209moderator
    mobius wrote: »
    206b - Operator's right boob. That's some cup size O.O

    They should have numbered it 80085.

    I'm glad to see this tech is finally showing up in their patents. The LEAP sensor can have so many uses. This laser system would probably have a longer range and might use less power.

    It could do facial detection, it could improve that Photobooth effect where they cut out the background, it can be used for controls, gaming, 3D object scanner, so many things.

    If they put the sensor in their machines with an API, 3rd party developers will come up with great uses for it.

    I'm not sure how the field of view is going to work on something like an iOS device and I'd prefer a system that doesn't point at the user but is used to detect gestures immediately above the surface. If it faces away from the user, it could help blind people walk by transmitting object detection into a hands-free ear-piece but it would have to be in their shirt pocket or something.

    I really hope this comes to something eventually. As the Kinect showed, it can take a while to get it right so they will have to refine any gestures considerably but it'll be very useful technology.
  • Reply 16 of 22
    [quote]

    Computer Trigger
    Illustration of computer trigger embodiment.


    [/quote]


    I am known through my circles as the "apple guy" (not something I'm boasting about) so naturally I get every tech support question, and every general Apple query coming to me around the clock.

    This photo looks exactly like my friends mom who lives in France.

    Right down to the mom attire.

    I had to face time tech support her iphone once.

    During the call I had a uncomfortable 1 minute boob shot because she didn't understand the angel of her iMacs iSight camera.

    Her son (my friend) was squirming as I requested her to raise the camera.

    In a motherly French accented voice she says,
    "What camera?"

    Ahhh....apple ...you make products so easy to use the people using them don't even understand how, what, where and when they are using them.
  • Reply 17 of 22
    netroxnetrox Posts: 717member


    why is her hair marked 117? 

  • Reply 18 of 22
    Greatest technology since touch screen(multi touch) wait both patented by apple
  • Reply 19 of 22

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post






    Computer Trigger

    Illustration of computer trigger embodiment.



     


    Is that Peggy Hill with her hair down?

  • Reply 20 of 22
    stelligentstelligent Posts: 2,680member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by netrox View Post


    why is her hair marked 117? 





    117 marks the person and not specifically the hair. To be specific, 117 is the user.

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