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For some time now, rumors have suggested Apple will add a laser-powered time-of-flight (ToF) 3D rear camera to its iPhone 12 series, which will bring significant improvements in the form of new augmented reality experiences and better photos.

iphone-augmented-reality.jpg

A report on Wednesday by Fast Company adds to those rumors, citing sources familiar with Apple's plans. According to the report, Apple has tapped San Jose-based Lumentum to supply the VCSEL lasers that will power the "world-facing" 3D depth sensor in "at least one of this year's iPhones."

VCSELs, or vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, have been a key component of Apple's TrueDepth camera since the iPhone X in 2017. The lasers power several flagship features like Face ID, Animoji and Portrait mode selfies, as well as the proximity-sensing capabilities of AirPods. However, a ToF camera system is a major step up from TrueDepth due to its more advanced use of laser.

TrueDepth relies on a structured-light technique that projects a pattern of 30,000 laser dots onto a user's face and measures the distortion to generate an accurate 3D image for authentication. By contrast, ToF calculates the time it takes for a laser to bounce off surrounding objects to create a 3D image of the environment. This allows for more accurate depth perception and better placement of virtual objects, and should also result in photos better able to capture depth.

Apple has sourced VCSELs for its TrueDepth cameras from Lumentum before, but the California-based firm has typically shared the spoils of Apple's business with other suppliers in previous years, and Fast Company's source appears to be suggesting they will be Apple's exclusive VCSEL supplier this time around. Lumentum is believed to have been ramping up additional manufacturing capacity for VCSELs and edge-emitting lasers since at least March 2018.

Multiple sources have claimed that Apple's 2020 iPhones will include a laser-powered time-of-flight 3D rear camera that will result in significant improvements to AR experiences, including Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Those rumors indicated that two higher-end iPhones coming this year will use the new time-of-flight rear camera, indicating that it may not be available in the lower-end iPhones that are going to have a lower price tag.

Rumors suggest a 6.7-inch iPhone and one 6.1-inch model will be higher-end OLED devices with triple-lens cameras, while the 5.4 and 6.1-inch models will be lower-end iPhones with dual-lens cameras and a more affordable price tag. All iPhones in 2020 are expected to feature OLED displays regardless of price.

In related developments, a report earlier this week claimed that Apple is planning to introduce a new augmented reality app in iOS 14, which is codenamed Gobi. The app is said to allow users to "get more information about the world around them" through AR.

The app may feature integrations with Apple Stores and Starbucks, which suggests users could do something like hold up an iPhone in an Apple Store to view information about products.

Article Link: Report: Apple's New 'World-Facing' 3D Camera Coming to At Least One iPhone This Year
 
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MozMan68

macrumors 601
Jun 29, 2010
4,088
2,061
Right here...
That'll be a nice gimmick to play with and show off to your friends.

And then never use again.

Noone holds their phones this way when navigating around.

You don't have to hold it that way the whole time. The example they are giving is with directions. Even when using Maps for walking directions today, I look at the phone to see where I'm going and then hold it normally.

But you have to start somewhere. This tech will obviously eventually be built in as option for glasses (or some other forward facing sensor) that can wirelessly connect to your phone to give you prompts or let you see the info without walking around with your phone raised.

I'd be okay with raising my phone at a monument, building, whatever and having it be scanned and then giving me info about what I'm looking at. More than a nice gimmick IMHO.
 
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Glockworkorange

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Feb 10, 2015
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Chicago, Illinois
That'll be a nice gimmick to play with and show off to your friends.

And then never use again.

Noone holds their phones this way when navigating around.
Like Animoji or Memoji. Apple gives great demos and demoware....
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So maybe only in the 6.7-inch Max.
The larger one will be their S20 Ultra----all the bells and whistles.
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You don't have to hold it that way the whole time. The example they are giving is with directions. Even when using Maps for walking directions today, I look at the phone to see where I'm going and then hold it normally.

But you have to start somewhere. This tech will obviously eventually be built in as option for glasses (or some other forward facing sensor) that can wirelessly connect to your phone to give you prompts or let you see the info without walking around with your phone raised.

I'd be okay with raising my phone at a monument, building, whatever and having it be scanned and then giving me info about what I'm looking at. More than a nice gimmick IMHO.
I mean, Google Maps does this with walking directions today.
 
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maerz001

macrumors 68000
Nov 2, 2010
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Wondering where the normal cameras are facing to if not the „world“
 
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The Game 161

macrumors Penryn
Dec 15, 2010
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No doubt the TOF will look the best on the iPhone. Nobody else has done much with TOF so far
 
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cmaier

macrumors Core
Jul 25, 2007
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Seems like a gimmick unless they come up with a much better use case. The only form factor where this really makes sense is glasses. Too much of a pain to hold up your phone and wave it around for more than a minute.
 
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brar.arsh

macrumors regular
Sep 12, 2016
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I like that concept phone in that rendered image.. Would buy that any day over my 11 pro max..
After having a look at how thin bezels do S20 series have, I phones so called all screen phones have started looking dated..
It's been same design for last 3 years..
 
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alpi123

macrumors 68000
Jun 18, 2014
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That'll be a nice gimmick to play with and show off to your friends.

And then never use again.

Noone holds their phones this way when navigating around.
It's not only useful for AR. Portrait mode, 3D scanning, more accurate distance measurement, better FACE ID (if used on front camera), etc...
 
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Relentless Power

macrumors Nehalem
Jul 12, 2016
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You can see the R&D Apple is investing into the camera, especially given that’s the most heavily marketed feature for the iPhone. I think this has its usefulness, maybe not right away for everyone, but with augmented reality Becoming more ‘wide stream’, especially with the AR glasses is eventually coming, it’s all going to go hand-in-hand.
 
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