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Is Apple Planning a ‘World-Facing’ 3D Camera for iPhone 12?

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Ariz Suban
Ariz Suban Mar 10, 2020

If you’re an Augmented Reality (AR) enthusiast, we’ve got great news for you! Rumour has it that Apple is planning to take AR to a whole new level with a ‘world-facing’ 3D camera in at least one of the 2020 iPhones—and it’s probably gonna be the iPhone 12. This would spell out an AR experience like never before for us.

Imagine walking up to an Apple Store and, instead of having to interact with an actual salesperson, you could just point your camera at the product and learn everything about it. That’d be SO cool, wouldn’t it?

Which iPhone exactly?

As per the reports, the new camera system has been planned only for the high-end iPhones. Budget iPhones will still have two and three cameras, which means the iPhone 12 Pro Max is our best bet for the new 3D camera.

We’re expecting that iPhone 12 will be available with a dual-camera setup while iPhone 12 Pro, like its predecessor, will flaunt a triple-camera system. And if the rumours are to be believed, we might have a 3D depth sensor time-of-flight camera system with a 64-megapixel main camera in the new iPhone 12 Pro Max!

From TrueDepth…

Fast Company reports that the tech giant would be purchasing the required laser technology from Lumentum. The company had earlier worked with Apple, providing VCSEL technology for the hugely successful iPhone X back in 2017. VCSELs, or vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, are what’s responsible for the ‘blurred background’ effect on your iPhone 11’s camera. Other awesome features of this technology included Face ID, Portrait Mode, and the hugely popular Animojis (that I’m still in love with)!

…to Time-of-Flight!

Like always, Apple has gone even further ahead to a more advanced use of the lasers with its time-of-flight (ToF) rear 3D cameras. This could mean an even more authentic and immersive AR experience for iPhone users.

What’s Time-of-Flight?

Apple has always been big on enhancing their cameras. But 2017’s iPhone X saw the ground-breaking TrueDepth technology, which projected a pattern of 30,000 laser dots upon an object and used the distortion to generate an accurate 3D image of the same. The ToF camera system, however, will calculate the time taken by lasers to get back to the sensor after reflection from an object. This will, in turn, result in more accurate depth perception and better analysis of virtual objects placed at a distance.

What else?

Along with the 3D camera system, Apple might also be developing a new AR app—potentially called ‘Gobi’to allow users “to get more information about the world around them”. The app might also be integrated with Apple Stores and Starbucks, though it’s hard to predict Indian users’ luck in this aspect for now.

Apart from this, another rumoured hardware that Apple might be planning is an AR headset (Perhaps those AR glasses?). If these turn out to be true, Apple will be changing the AR game for good. And who knows, we might even get to interact with holographic images soon! (#WatchOutTonyStark)

While Apple won’t be the first to add rear depth cameras to its phones— the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, Galaxy S20+, and S20 Ultra already have them—it surely seems to have big plans for an even better user experience. Now all that’s left for us to do is wait for an official announcement and hope nothing gets delayed due to the corona outbreak.

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