The iPhone X, released late last year as their flagship model, introduced Face ID as one of their most intriguing new features. Face ID is what Apple named their facial recognition system that replaced the need of the fingerprint scanner, and allowed users to unlock their phone, make purchases, enable Animojis, and other special effects.
Face ID works by using Apple’s TrueDepth camera system, which combines an infrared emitter that projects over 30,000 dots in a known pattern onto the user’s face, and a dedicated infrared camera for photographing those dots those dots to map a 3D image of the user’s face. Additionally, the system also uses a proximity sensor to detect the distance of the user to the phone and an ambient light sensor to help the system output light levels. With the advancement of this technology, Apple has provided their users a fun, innovative, and secure technology that introduced infrared 3D mapping onto the iPhone.
However, it appears Apple may be interested in using their Face ID technology not just on your phones, but possibly in your home as well.
In a new patent application published on 2/22/2018 (Appl. No.: 15/586,295), Apple discloses a standalone depth camera. This depth camera ad Fig. 4 in the application and labeled as a “3D mapping and projection device.”
The depth camera’s patent application provides for an improved device and method of 3D mapping, and said device is capable of 360-degree operation and projecting visible images over the volume that is mapped by the device. In some embodiments, the depth camera is said to be a self-contained unit which can be placed on a tabletop, “in order to map a room and its occupants.” Additionally, the same “apparatus can be used to scan a modulated beam of visible light so as to project a visible image onto the scene that is mapped.”
The depth camera’s connection to Apple’s Face ID technology is evident in the patent application as Apple notes the device contains a mirror assembly, a transmitter configured to direct pulses of optical radiation toward the mirror assembly (which directs the optical radiation in a spot pattern towards the volume that is mapped by the device), a receiver positioned to receive the optical radiation, and a control assembly. Additionally, the application notes that the apparatus can include a beamsplitter that is positioned between the transmitter and the receiver, and the beamsplitter is configured so optical radiation is directed from the transmitter towards the mirror while simultaneously reflecting the optical radiation from the mirror reflection of the volume that is mapped to the receiver.
Thus, just as with Face ID, and the TrueDepth camera used in the iPhone X, the standalone depth device’s scanner can be used for both 3D mapping and projection of light, includes an illumination module that has a radiation source configured to emit optical radiation, and the projected light creates a pattern of spots to be analyzed.
Additionally, standalone depth camera is not the only recent patent from Apple that has explored the idea of placing a 3D mapping and projection device into the home. Apple has recently also been awarded the US 9,772,720 Patent, titled Flexible Room Controls, with Fig. 1 of said patent pictured below.
This newly granted patent covering Apple’s invention includes an optical subsystem, a depth map scanner, and a projection system. As shown above, the user in the figure is interacting with a projected user interface from the ceiling mounted device. The control apparatus claimed in this patent looks very futuristic and like it would fit right into the Steven Spielberg science fiction movie Minority Report.
Based on the above-mentioned patent publication and recently granted patent, it is obvious that Apple has big plans for their Face ID 3D mapping technology. Additionally, it seems that Apple is no longer content with selling you your next phone, and they now have their eyes set on filling your entire home with high tech new gadgets.
Inventors and business owners should protect themselves by working with their patent attorneys to ensure their intellectual property is fully protected. Patent attorney Derek Clements of Bold IP authored this article. Bold IP patent attorneys are ready to assist in any intellectual property matters.