While a majority of Apple’s patent filings are little more than a glimpse into the minds of the company’s designers, they occasionally give us an early look at a new feature or improvement coming to the MacBook, iPhone or iPad. That might be the case this week as a newly awarded patent appears to hint at a feature of the upcoming iPhone 8 that has appeared repeatedly in reports from analysts and insiders.
First discovered by AppleInsider, Apple’s patent for “Enhanced face detection using depth information” details a new method for face detection that allows a camera to capture a depth map of a scene and detect human faces within that scene. Once a face is detected (or multiple faces), a window is defined for each face and scaled accordingly based on where the window appears in the depth map.
As AppleInsider notes, this technology come from PrimeSense: the company behind the technology that powered the original Kinect. PrimeSense was subsequently acquired by Apple back in 2013.
Last month, KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a report to investors that the iPhone 8 (or whatever Apple ends up calling the OLED iPhone) would feature a “revolutionary” front-facing camera and infrared module capable of sensing 3D space. If Tim Cook truly believes that augmented reality is a “core technology,” as he claimed in an interview last month, this kind of innovation will be key to making it possible on the iPhone.
Furthermore, as CNBC points out, a line from the patent states that the methods “may be used in a vehicle-mounted system for automatic detection and reading of traffic signs,” which could be a hint at a key feature of the Apple car, or at the very least a future addition to Apple’s vehicle software suite.