Apple has filed the latest patent with the idea of using using 2 cameras to take 2 pictures of 2 different items in the same direction. With the different focal lengths when taking 2 photos, a mobile phone can zoom effectively without an actual moving lens.
The Apple patent picked up by Patently Apple shows diagrams of two cameras side by side. The first one is with a larger field of view and the second one is with a smaller field of view that is a subset of the larger one, with their visual axes aligned. The device can then store the two photo data structures separately.
Illustrations from Apple’s patent. The left figure shows the two cameras capturing two fields of view. The right figure shows the two images both displayed on the same screen.
With these two data structures, the device can display both photos, switch between them or create an intermediate photo, enhancing the quality of the larger field of view picture with data from the smaller field of view.
For an example of this technology being used, Apple described taking video of a baseball game. With this design, someone could take equal-quality zoomed in and wide angle video at the same time and use that in the coverage of the game. With one device, a video operator could focus close up on a batter swinging while also focusing on the wider outfield and crowd reaction.
To ensure simultaneous image capture, Apple included a portion in the patent to index and compare the times at which the photos are captured in each of the cameras.
Apple’s patent isn’t just for phones, it also includes computers, tablets, cameras and gaming consoles. This technology could very well become a part of many different future Apple products.
There is no mention of using the side-by-side cameras for 3D within the patent, and the slight offset of the two images raises the question of how well an intermediate composition of the two photos would actually look. There are no details about how the photo data would be analyzed and combined.
The patent doesn’t prove that this technology will alive in a finished product in the future, however we can know that Apple is considering to create a future product with this awesome technology.