Looks like Apple products, which are generally credited to have the best cameras in the busness, would henceforth come equipped with stronger AR (Augmented Reality) features and more depth in 3D effects.
Korean media reports have it that Apple is looking for additional 'TOF Module' suppliers in South Korea in addition to LG Innotek, which has an existing tie-up with the Cupertino-headquartered company.
TOF module (Time of Flight), by the way, is a 3D sensing component that calculates distance by measuring the time that light bounces back from a subject and recognizes an object’s 3D effect, spatial information, and movement. Basically, it is an ultra-compact mobile camera module for face recognition that can sense the 3D depth of the subject.
Apple put to use TOF module for the first time this year on iPad Pro. Now Apple is also planning to use TOF module for its new iPhone that is expected to be release later this year.
The sensing module, which enables a mobile device to capture 3-D data and recognize a user even in a dark environment, is also a key component of iPhone X's facial recognition solution, Face ID.
AR in Apple products
Apple has been consistently looking for cutting edge technology to make its camera stand out in the market. For instance, Apple acquired the Israeli start-up LinX in April 2015 for $20 million, absorbing the latter's 3D camera technology. LinX, founded in 2011, has the technology of adding more depth to photos by dividing the digital image in three stages.
And Apple already has a tie-up with LG Innotek. In fact, the belief is Apple has formally invested in LG Innotek to ensure regular supply of TOF modules. Still, Apple is scouting for more suppliers for TOF modules.
Apple recently visited multiple camera parts suppliers in South Korea for supply of their TOF modules, according to ET News.
One of the reasons speculated for Apple shopping for more TOF modules is it is planning to include an augmented reality (AR) feature in its iPhones.
"When AR is seen through a TOF module, a real image combined with a virtual image can be seen more accurately and realistically. TOF technology allows a device to measure distance and recognize 3D shapes more accurately," the news report said.
In general, if 3D sensing is applied to smart phones, users can conveniently operate various functions without actually touching their devices. That is because 3D sensing module can detect the specific features and movements of one’s face or hands to carry out certain commands, such as switching the screen.
According to Yole Dévelopment, a global market research company, the global market size of 3D image processing and sensing devices will reach $9 billion by 2022.
Aside from the TOF module, LG Innotek has also developed the world's smallest Bluetooth module that is the size of a grain of rice. It is useful in wireless earphones, smart bands. Apple's AirPods Pro is likely the first targeted Apple device for Innotek's new Bluetooth module.
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