Apple Awarded Patent That Covers Kinect-Style 3D Mapping on Mac, iPhone
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday issued a new patent for a projection-based 3D mapping solution to Apple from its acquisition of PrimeSense, the Israeli firm Apple purchased last year.
PrimeSense specializes in 3D motion sensing and machine vision, and if you remember it’s the same company that licensed the technology Microsoft used to develop the Kinect sensor for Xbox 360.
The new patent, dubbed as the “Lens array projector,” outlines some of the basics around PrimeSense’s optical projection technology to create a 3D mapping sensor system. It describes the light projection system and optical components required to obtain the in-depth information of the scene using infrared light.
The system incorporates a patterning element that emits an even field of light points onto an object surface. The resulting pattern distortion is recorded by an imaging sensor, which then feeds the data, including the angle and degree of distortion, to the processor for mapping a three-dimensional space.
AppleInsider explains this phenomenon as follows:
When light reaches the homogenizer, it passes through a first microlens array with lenses disposed at a pitch equal to the light source matrix. A second microlens element constructed with a different pitch receives and focuses light from the first array, passing it on to a collection lens for collimation.
The pattern is highly sensitive to the smallest of deviations. So Apple’s patent uses a beam homogenizer in the system’s setup to ensure accurate motion tracking. The homogenizer comprises of two microlens arrays with different pitches, and different geometric arrangements.
As light passes through this assembly, a final homogenized and collimated beam is produced that averages out deviations.
As far as the potential applications of the patent are concerned, it’s easy to imagine that the Cupertino could use this specific technology across its personal computers, much like Microsoft’s Kinect.
Apple could even integrate gesture-based interfaces into a new version of Apple TV, or iOS devices as the patent also shows an alternate construction of the system that hints for use in more compact devices.
Microsoft unbundled the Kinect from the Xbox earlier this year after it noticed that the tech couldn’t appeal to consumers as it expected. But developers have a special interest in this tool, so we find a number of tech companies that are working on different creative projects based on such technology.
Now, Apple is preparing to step into the game by exploring their option. Adding motion tracking interface to its new generation devices, the iPhone maker might refresh its product roadmap, which could also push the boundaries of this already growing tech category.