Apple's 2019 iPhones slated to get better FaceID & Animoji cameras

in Future Apple Hardware edited November 2018
Ming-Chi Kuo is predicting an improved Face ID system will be implemented in the September 2019 iPhone lineup, with the improvements in the camera intended to improve performance across the board.

TrueDepth camera in use in Face ID system.
TrueDepth camera in use in Face ID system.

In a note seen by AppleInsider Kuo writes that he believes Apple will raise the output power of the flood illuminator vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) central to the Face ID system. The improvements will lower the impacts from invisible infrared light in the environment, making for a more accurate system.

The same report claims that "time of flight" will be added to the rear camera system as well, with it potentially being adopted by the iPad as early as the last calendar quarter of 2019. Kuo doesn't expect to see this particular improvement in the iPhone until the second half of 2020, though.

"Time of flight" will not just improve range-finding by a device, but has the ability to allow for higher precision on augmented reality graphics placement, as well as better photo quality. The better element will calculate how long it takes a signal emitted from the iPhone to return to the iPhone, allowing for very precise calculations for how far away an object is from the camera. This, in turn, allows for higher precision on overlays like an Augmented reality sign, as well as better image focusing and depth mapping algorithms.

The vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) is a diode with the laser emitting perpendicular from the top surface of the assembly, rather than a directional lens. VCSEL applications at low power include optical mice and laser printers. At slightly higher power, such as those that Lumentum is selling, they can be used as precise rangefinders, and texture mappers -- and still be invisible to the naked eye.

Apple currently uses VCSEL arrays to power the TrueDepth camera and, subsequently, Face ID in the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max. Sometimes referred to as structured light modules, VCSEL components make up the dot projector in Apple's 3D modeling apparatus, which also includes an infrared flood illuminator, and infrared camera and color cameras.

Apple's main VCSEL supplier Lumentum was founded in 2015. The company claims that its products are incorporated into "virtually every type of telecom, enterprise, and data center network." Lumentum's Chief Quality Officer Misha Rozenberg held a senior engineering management position at Apple between 1989 and 1994.


  • Reply 1 of 4
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,007member
    Don't have issue with Notch but as a part of better FaceID in 2019, it would be nice if notch's vertical/width can shrink a bit.
  • Reply 2 of 4
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 358member
    FaceID performance for myself is very good: just yesterday in my truck w baseball cap pulled low and very dark Oakley prescription sunglasses and my XS Max popped right open when I tried it without a thought to what I was wearing just as when I’ve no hat and my plain glasses, which is how I trained it.  Or no glasses at all (though then it’s a bit blurry, lol). 

    The one condition I’d  noticed problems with reliable Face ID using my iPhone X was very strong side summer sunlight. The contrast between one side of my face brightly lit and the other in shade seemed to be a predictable issue. 

    Now that a second “face” can be added I suppose if a particular situation causes issues it could be added as its own “face”. Perhaps something like extremely heavy theatrical makeup when a player would still like access to their phone just like when in “civilian” makeup? (I should ask my actor friends if that’s a thing. Anybody know?)

    ETA: I just bet clown makeup would mess with Face ID but maybe not...
    edited November 2018
  • Reply 3 of 4
    jason98jason98 Posts: 764member
    Rear camera really needs improvement for better depth sensing. 
    I took this shot with a brand new iPhone XS Max in the "portrait" mode.
    Look at the back of the chair also right side of the pumpkin.
    It seems like dual camera tech does not even help here.

  • Reply 4 of 4
    netroxnetrox Posts: 780member
    jason98 said:
    Rear camera really needs improvement for better depth sensing. 
    I took this shot with a brand new iPhone XS Max in the "portrait" mode.
    Look at the back of the chair also right side of the pumpkin.
    It seems like dual camera tech does not even help here.

    It's definitely a terrible implementation. I tried with Halide app and it does not have that issue. It's able to blur the areas that aren't part of the depth. Halide provides far better image quality but less flexible (you cannot adjust aperture on the fly nor after the shot) so it's a tradeoff.
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