Apple readying rear-facing 3D sensor for iPhone in 2019

by Justin Herrick | November 14, 2017

Apple’s efforts in augmented reality debuted this year with iOS 11. Developers can take advantage of an iPhone or iPad’s processor, graphics chip, camera, and motion sensors to build immersive apps that blend real and virtual environments. It’s only the start of the company’s plans to go all-in on augmented reality, though. The real interesting stuff made possible by ARKit, the platform being used by Apple and developers, could come in 2019.

A rear-facing 3D sensor, according to Bloomberg, is in development to be implemented on the 2019 iPhone.

Discussions are ongoing as to whether or not Apple will hit its targeted launch. Apple could be talking to Infineon Technologies, Sony, STMicroelectronics, and Panasonic. Testing is underway on the technology, but the people speaking to Bloomberg couldn’t confirm which partners have been selected and what exactly the new component will do.

The iPhone X already has a 3D sensor on its front known as TrueDepth. It utilizes 30,000 laser dots placed on an individual’s face to recognize them for authentication or tracking. Apple’s new method, however, would leverage “time-of-flight.” It’s an approach in which the 3D sensor would direct a laser at objects around an individual to create a three-dimensional image of their face. The 3D sensor times how long it takes the laser to bounce off surroundings and a face to track quickly and accurately.

Although TrueDepth is expected to remain intact for the front of future iPhones, it’s the rear that will be very different and have a new 3D sensor produced by a different supplier. And the launch could coincide with the release of Apple’s long-rumored augmented reality headset.

While developers would certainly benefit greatly from the new component, Apple could leverage it to improve the iPhone’s camera. Using lasers could help the rear camera become faster when it comes to focusing. Owners of the iPhone could also implement special effects. But, since the technology is still far from ready for the public, there are probably a bunch of details we aren’t aware of. Apple typically does a good job hiding things away until they’re ready for showtime.

For now, just bask in the joy that Animoji has brought to the world thanks to the TrueDepth-based 3D sensor on the front of the iPhone X.

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Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...