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Apple has released the Iphone 7 this month with a dual lens camera system:
While the larger model should boast identical specs for its wide-angle lenser, the non-OIS telephoto module and lens pairing has yet to undergo rigorous testing. In addition to 2x optical zoom, the dual-lens configuration allows for a new portrait mode — coming in a future iOS update — that analyzes and merges data from both cameras to create a shallow depth of field effect, keeping the subject in sharp focus against a creamy bokeh. (Apple Insider)The depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image. A small depth of field would have a shallow focus, which is ideal for taking photos of portraits: the face of the subject is made sharp at the expense of blurring the background.
I think a dual lens camera system, as its name implies, allows for extended zooming range. If you're doing the wide angle shots, the wide-angle camera would take over, while the smaller camera shuts down or simply takes a support role. But if you're doing close up shots of a bee frolicking sunflowers, with the pollen grains gathering like dust on the bee's body, the smaller lens takes over doing the hard work.
B. Stereo Camera System
Unlike a dual lens camera system where different lenses operating in zero-sum game, a stereo camera system would require at least two identical lenses operating simultaneously, just like the human eye. The difference in the two images would allow the camera to make a reasonable estimate on the distance of each point in the object with respect to the center point of the line joining the two cameras. A stereo camera system is used for example in NASA's STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory). As the name implies, there are two satellites orbiting the sun at two Lagrange points in the earth's orbit. These two satellites take picture of the sun at different electromagnetic wave frequencies. The data of the two satellites are then used to make 3D images of the sun.
What's are the implications of this stereo camera system technology for the iPhone? Here's a rundown:
- AutoCAD. You take a stereo photo of a building and you use an app to instantly create a wire mesh model in AutoCAD file format. It would be like Iron Man making his designs in virtual reality.
- Skype Do you notice that when you meet with your colleagues or friends in a video conference in Skype, you cannot really see each other eye to eye? The reason for this is the camera is at the top of the screen. With a stereo camera system, two or more cameras can take your video simultaneously, reconstruct your 3D avatar, overlay it with the stitched images from the different cameras, and project the result back to the screen, so that you can see each other in the eye.
- Street Fighter. Four posts may be installed as corners of a ring, just like in boxing, which can serve as reference points for the iPhone's stereo cameras. Unlike Pokemon Go which is based on GPS technology with horizontal accuracy of 3.5 m, the fight in a four-corner ring for a Street Fighter app would have accuracy of a few millimeters in tabletop settings, which would be enough to see Ryu and Bison fight like in an arcade game, with other iPhone users watching the show from different directions.
- Snapchat. Oh, it's Snap Inc now. Snap has made its mark in social media by making filters that are based on facial recognition software, so that princess crown filters would fit just right in your favorite profile pic. With a stereo camera system, Snap can create a 3D filter to make a gif of you waving your hands demurely as the newly crowned Miss Universe. For marketers, a Snap filter for new blouse or jacket would be the excellent way to test the product before you head off to Amazon's One-Click.
And there's so much more. With the increase in computing power and machine learning technologies in the coming years, an iPhone with a stereo camera system would truly be the next disruptive technology.