Apple has revealed a radical new folding iPhone technology that could revolutionize smartphone photography.
The new design, revealed in a recent Apple patent, brings upgraded photographic capabilities to the iPhone (or iPad) by installing the smartphone in a flexible case containing additional cameras that work together with those already built into the phone. Key benefits include superior three-dimensional imaging and superior panoramic shots.
Putting cameras on the case, rather than on the phone, allows for a much greater distance between multiple camera modules. This increases the phone’s depth perception and improves the potential for three-dimensional capture.
More importantly, the flexible case allows the user to adjust the cameras’ positions relative to one another by bending or folding the case as necessary. This enables wider panoramic shots with improved quality over a typical ultra-wide-angle camera solution, as well as the ability to photograph objects from multiple different angles in one shot rather than just head-on.
The simplest version of this technology uses a typical folding phone cover that opens and closes like a book. By teaming up one camera on the phone with another on the opposing cover flap, the technique can make use of the changing angle between the two as the cover is opened or closed to varying degrees.
Other variations of the technique include more complicated shapes, such as those that unroll like a scroll or bend around multiple corners.
Also described is a laptop featuring six cameras installed in various locations within the casing. In this design, the multiple cameras enable three-dimensional image capture and the use of ‘air gestures’ to control the device – certainly a big step up from the paltry 720p webcams typically favored by Apple.
According to Apple’s patent, the cameras will communicate with the main device either by wires or wirelessly. This suggests the case will be removable rather than being permanently attached to the phone. It also opens up possibilities for some exciting camera accessories which could be purchased to upgrade existing iPhones.
Earlier attempts at external smartphone cameras have never proved particularly successful (remember the DXO One?), but to me, an All-Apple case-based solution sounds much more appealing.
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