Apple Granted a Patent that Details a Method for Adding Depth to Photos
The US Patent and Trademark Office recently revealed a newly-granted Apple patent that details a method for capturing stereoscopic image data in software, a possible precursor to a depth-enabled photography mode for the company’s mobile devices. Entitled simply “producing stereoscopic image,” the patent describes a system in which a computer can identify two suitable digital photographs from a range of options than combine those photographs into a single stereoscopic image. This is particularly challenging, according to the patent, for photographers due to the need to manually ensure that the chosen photographs are properly matched.
For those of you who didn’t’ know, stereoscopic imaging is a technique designed to replicate the way humans perceive depth in real life. Because people’s eyes are offset from one another, each eye receives an image of the subject at a slightly different angle – the brain then puts the images together, creating the appearance of depth. Most stereoscopic cameras achieve the effect using two offset lenses in a design that mimics the way a person would view the scene. Apple’s previous patents covered the integration of multiple cameras into a single device but the new patent would allow stereoscopic images to be captured from only a single camera with the work of selecting and aligning suitable photographs performed by the device rather than the photographer.
One of the more familiar forms of stereoscopy in popular culture is the anaglyph technique used to create 3D movies and images. Two scenes are overlaid on top of each other in different colors and colored lenses, much like the cardboard red-and-blue glasses often distributed in cereal boxes during the 1990s, which are then used to filter the images to each eye, resulting in a three-dimensional effect.
The patent was originally filed on January 3, 2011 and credits Louis James Beato and Andrew C. Blose as inventors. The patent is one of a number of patents Apple acquired from Kodak when the imaging giant auctioned off its intellectual property portfolio last year in a $525 million sale.
We’ll have to wait and see what comes to fruition as a result of the patent.