Apple looks to end blurry iPhone photos with new invention

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
In a patent filing discovered on Thursday, Apple describes a digital camera implementation that continuously captures and stores images in a buffer until the user releases the shutter, at which time the system automatically selects the best picture based on a number of predetermined variables.

Continuous Imaging
Source: USPTO


Filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in October of 2012, Apple's "Image capturing device having continuous image capture" offers owners of small, portable devices more leeway when trying to get the perfect shot.

While smartphones like the iPhone have relatively high-quality camera systems, the products are not purpose-built for picture taking and come with a multitude of compromises. For example, a smartphone's optics and imaging sensor are minuscule compared to modern equivalents seen in full-size DSLRs and pocketable point-and-shoots. The lack of a powerful image processor and other vital components just add to the challenge of getting high quality photographs from a handset's camera.

From the patent filing's background:
These image capturing devices typically use a preview resolution for capturing a preview image of a scene. Subsequently, a user provides an input to take a photograph. The device switches from preview resolution to full resolution prior to capturing an image. Switching from preview to full resolution causes a time lag, which may lead to user frustration. Also, camera shake during the time when a user presses a button or touches a touchscreen can degrade image quality.
The iPhone 5, for example, offers a preview image not quite at full resolution. This allows for fast screen refresh times that give a better overall user experience by simulating a "live" environment. Preview quality is most noticeable when zooming in on a subject, when the image becomes pixelated and sometimes blurry.

Apple's system starts up when a user launches a photo app like Camera, continuously capturing and storing sequential full-resolution images to a buffer. When a request is given (shutter press or screen touch), the system pulls from the pool and chooses one image based on when it was captured, its quality, or a combination of the two.

Depending on the quality of the image, the processing logic can select the photo from either the buffer or concurrent to when the shutter is pressed. The system uses a "focus score" to based on contrast, image resolution, dynamic range and color rendering properties. By weighting the scores of tagged images, along with factoring in exposure time, the logic can choose which photo to use. Memory is conserved by purging the buffer at a predetermined time, or when capacity reaches a certain threshold.

Camera Flowchart
Example flowchart of processing logic.


In one embodiment, the selected picture can be displayed on screen in full resolution immediately after a request as confirmation for the user.

It is not clear if this exact technology is being implemented in iOS and devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, but some aspects of the invention can be seen in Apple's latest products.

The patent application was first filed for in October of 2012 as a division to another co-pending filing from 2009, and lists Ralph Brunner, Nikhil Bhogal and James David Batson as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 45
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,350member


    Why not use that fancy blurry picture clearing technology?  Too much for iPhone?  I doubt it.

  • Reply 2 of 45

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post


    Why not use that fancy blurry picture clearing technology?  Too much for iPhone?  I doubt it.



    Can such algorithms make an image as good as one that was not blurry in the first place? Too much for the imagination? I doubt it.

  • Reply 3 of 45
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,677member
    I have seen something like this. Win 8? Nokia?
  • Reply 4 of 45
    geekdadgeekdad Posts: 1,131member
    Coming to iPhone 6? Hope so!
  • Reply 5 of 45
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member


    I'd be surprised if this patent is granted. A company called Scalado has been touting an identical technology for years.

  • Reply 6 of 45
    Amazing demo -
  • Reply 7 of 45
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,512member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post


    Why not use that fancy blurry picture clearing technology?  Too much for iPhone?  I doubt it.





    I imagine Adobe patented it.

  • Reply 8 of 45
    This is a well known technique to get non-blurry shots, so I wonder what is novel about their algorithm. Cue Mark Cuban and his gang of SW patent nay-sayers...
  • Reply 9 of 45
    haarhaar Posts: 563member
    does not do much for my unsteady hands...
  • Reply 10 of 45
    Well, I can't even begin to think of the drain it will have on battery! *if you know what I mean*
  • Reply 11 of 45
    lol why not just have a faster shutter speed? If you are going to spend all that die space for cache and processing a bad image, why not just increase the speed of your shutter and the ability of your sensor to gather light?

    Blurry images are due to motion. Motion is offset by shutter speed. Fast shutter speed can be achieved when enough light is gathered (unless you want black images).

    Lots of good reading on Canon's website. (I'm sure Nikon also has some great articles)
  • Reply 12 of 45

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by haar View Post



    does not do much for my unsteady hands...


     


    That is why you need a shutter speed of 120 or above. At 120 I can capture crisp floral shots in the wind. 

  • Reply 13 of 45

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by NotScott View Post



    Amazing demo -


     


    I love this demo also. But I stress that it is always best to capture a great exposure to start, then to fix it in software afterwards. 

  • Reply 14 of 45


    Keep in mind this is a filing, not an issue...  


     


    At the same time, I am pretty sure they should go and look at the trove of patents from Kodak...  Am betting they'll find one just like this somewhere in there...


     


    Just sayin'

  • Reply 15 of 45


    Most issues can be fixed.  Being out of focus is not one of those issues.

  • Reply 16 of 45
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    That is why you need a shutter speed of 120 or above. At 120 I can capture crisp floral shots in the wind. 

    It's a tiny lens. Very short 'shutter speeds' (in quotes because it doesn't actually use a shutter) may not allow for enough light capture.
  • Reply 17 of 45


    Just fix the zoom already. 

  • Reply 18 of 45
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,486member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jpadhiyar View Post



    Well, I can't even begin to think of the drain it will have on battery! *if you know what I mean*


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Richard Getz View Post



    lol why not just have a faster shutter speed? If you are going to spend all that die space for cache and processing a bad image, why not just increase the speed of your shutter and the ability of your sensor to gather light?


     


    Apple could simply make use of the ISP already embedded on all A5 and above SoCs - would mean insignificant power consumption while processing the images.


     


    Cameras in cell phones are tiny compared to what's in dedicated cameras. They cannot possibly capture the same amount of light and as such "shutter" speed will (most likely) always be much slower. Hence the reason for trying to develop other ways to capture higher quality images.


     


    As far as cache space, we're probably talking about micro seconds of photo capturing before the person presses the capture button.

  • Reply 19 of 45


    Originally Posted by NotScott View Post

    Amazing demo -


     


    Not at all the same technology.




    Still neat, though.

  • Reply 20 of 45
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by paxman View Post



    I have seen something like this. Win 8? Nokia?


     


    Galaxy S3 is one example.   Burst mode, with "Best Photo" turned on.


     


    Takes eight images (one every 0.3 secs).


     


    Then it determines the "best photo" based on lighting, subject smiles, and least amount of blur... and puts a "thumbs up" on a mini of that image.  You can decide otherwise and choose a different shot to save, if you were after a different effect.  (Go to about 0:55 below if you want to skip the initial settings tutorial.)


     


    image

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