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Apple announced its augmented reality development kit (ARKit) at WWDC back in June. Now, the company appears to be adding a bunch of brand-new components to the next iPhone in order to beef up the new AR platform’s capabilities.
The company is trying to add a rear-facing 3D laser system to the back of the next iPhone, set to debut this fall. The sensor system would give the iPhone better depth-sensing abilities for augmented reality apps and better auto-focus for standard photography.
The report claims Apple is working to add a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) system that gives the phone’s camera better depth perception. It does this by calculating how long it takes for the imperceptible light to travel from your phone, to the target object, and back.
Apple always want users to have the best experience out there, so if it can create the best augmented reality platform with the best phone for watching AR, it’s easy to imagine how they could reach the pinnacle of success in this space.
Current iPhones use something called focus pixels, which is also known as phase detection. This is a complicated process where your phone splits up incoming light into sets of images and compares them to determine where an object is, and how to focus on it.
If the technology is ready in time, the next iPhone won’t be the first smartphone to boast laser auto-focus. A 3D scanning subsystem has been rumored since February when KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported on it. That system reportedly focused on using the iPhone 8′s front-facing camera as a replacement for the Touch ID. But it now looks like 3D sensing might be coming to the rear-facing camera, too.