Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to the use of a range of cameras for a future headset and smartphone such as infrared cameras, electro-optical cameras capturing visible light, depth cameras, time-of-flight cameras, RGB Depth cameras, light field cameras, microscopes, X-Ray imaging systems and magnetic resonance imaging systems. The cameras will use computer vision algorithms that utilize thermal imagery to perform specific tasks related to navigation, object recognition, 3D reconstruction, camera pose estimation, and Augmented Reality applications, to name a few.
The patent can only be appreciated by machine learning and computer vision engineers. The patent notes that “Distinctive feature points are usually computed in computer vision detection-description framework. Common distinctive feature points include SIFT, SURF, BRISK, FREAK, Harris Corners, FAST etc.”
Secondly, Apple’s patent application 20200279121 was acquired when acquiring German Company Metaio. There are only two inventors listed and both are from Metaio with one being Daniel Kurz who is now with Apple as a Senior Engineering Manager (Computer Vision, Machine Learning).
One of Metaio’s great inventions that Apple acquired relates to “Thermal Touch” which is a vision of the near future for wearable computing user interfaces. By fusing information from an infrared and standard camera, nearly any surface can be transformed into a touch screen.
At the end of the day, trying to guess what part of this patent Apple may actually use in future products is difficult to ascertain being that it’s a foreign patent – beyond the fact that the patent is about the possible use of next-generation cameras for Apple devices.
Beyond that, if you happen to be a computer vision, machine learning engineer, it may be of some interest to review this patent. The patent dates back to 2014, the year prior to Apple acquiring Metaio.