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Future iPhone might add a time-of-flight camera

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We’re still a few months away from Apple announcing its 2019 iPhones, but rumors have already started for next year’s models, with the ever-reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claiming in his latest report that two of the 2020 iPhones will feature a rear time-of-flight (ToF) 3D depth sensor for better augmented reality features and portrait shots, viaMacRumors.

It’s not the first we’ve heard of Apple considering a ToF camera for its 2020 phones, either. Bloomberg reported a similar rumor back in January, and reports of a 3D camera system for the iPhone have existed since 2017. Other companies have beaten Apple to the punch here, with several phones on the market already featuring ToF cameras. But given the prevalence of Apple’s hardware and the impact it tends to have on the industry, it’s worth taking a look at what this camera technology is and how it works.

What is a ToF sensor, and how does it work?

Time-of-flight is a catch-all term for a type of technology that measures the time it takes for something (be it a laser, light, liquid, or gas particle) to travel a certain distance.

In the case of camera sensors, specifically, an infrared laser array is used to send out a laser pulse, which bounces off the objects in front of it and reflects back to the sensor. By calculating how long it takes that laser to travel to the object and back, you can calculate how far it is from the sensor (since the speed of light in a given medium is a constant). And by knowing how far all of the different objects in a room are, you can calculate a detailed 3D map of the room and all of the objects in it.

The technology is typically used in cameras for things like drones and self-driving cars (to prevent them from crashing into stuff), but recently, we’ve started seeing it pop up in phones as well.

How is it different from Face ID?

Face ID (and other similar systems) use an IR projector to pulse a grid of thousands of dots, which the phone then takes a 2D picture of and uses that to calculate the depth map.

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Time-of-flight sensors work differently: by using the time-of-flight data to calculate how long it takes the lasers to reach the object, it’s getting real-time, 3D depth data instead of a 2D map that is calculated to three dimensions.

That leads to several advantages: due to the laser-based system, it works for longer ranges than Apple’s grid-based system for Face ID, which only works for about 10 to 20 inches away from the phone. (If the subject is too far away, the dots for the grid are too spaced out to provide a useful resolution.) It also, in theory, allows for more accurate data than IR-grid systems. A good example is the LG G8, which uses a ToF sensor for its motion-sensing gestures. The ToF system allows for things like tracking and distinguishing each individual finger in 3D in real time to enable those gestures.

Why does Apple want it?

The rumors from both Kuo and Bloomberg are saying that Apple is looking to add the ToF sensor to the rear camera on 2020 iPhones, not to replace the existing IR system used for Face ID (which the new iPhones will reportedly still have).

Apple’s focus is said to be on enabling new augmented reality experiences: a ToF sensor could enable room tracking on a mobile scale, allowing a future iPhone to scan the room, create an accurate 3D rendering, and use that for far more immersive and accurate augmented reality implementations than current models allow for.

As an added bonus, a ToF sensor would also enable better depth maps for portrait mode pictures (which Huawei already does with the P30 Pro) by capturing full 3D maps to better separate the subject from the background, as well as better portrait mode-style videos.

Who else is using it?

Several phone companies already feature ToF scanners in their devices. As noted earlier, LG uses one in the front-facing camera of the G8 to enable motion gestures and better portrait photos. (It also uses the same IR laser system for its vein-mapping for the phone’s unique “palm recognition” feature.)

Huawei’s P30 Pro also features one as part of its rear-camera array, which is used for depth maps for portrait effects. That said, Huawei also claimed at the time of launch to have some AR ambitions for the sensor, too, noting that the P30 Pro can measure the height, depth, volume, and area of real-world objects with greater than 98.5 percent accuracy.

Sony — which provides imaging sensors for a wide variety of smartphones, including the iPhone — announced earlier this year that it was planning to ramp up production of 3D laser-based ToF chips this summer, which would be perfect timing for inclusion in a 2020 iPhone.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2019/7/29/20734550/apple-2020-iphone-time-of-flight-camera-ar-depth-map-lasers-portrait-photography

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The Future

HMD working on a much cheaper Nokia 5G phone, set for 2020 release

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It seems like most major brands have at least one 5G phone out on the market, but HMD Global is one notable exception thus far.

The Nokia brand licensee hasn’t released a 5G phone just yet, although there are rumors of a 5G flagship. But HMD Global chief product officer Juho Sarvikas told Digital Trends that it’s planning to release a more affordable device in 2020.

More specifically, Sarvikas told the outlet that this Nokia 5G phone could retail for roughly half the price of current 5G devices. He presumably means half the price of $1000+ 5G devices from HuaweiLG, and Samsung, rather than half the price of Xiaomi’s €599 (~$664) Mi Mix 3 5G.

“We see a particular opportunity for us in bringing 5G to a more affordable segment as we enter the market,” the HMD representative was quoted as saying by Digital Trends. “I would say affordable in relation to what’s available today. I would love to see us at half of the price where you have 5G today.”EDITOR’S PICK

In any event, a $500 to $600 Nokia 5G phone would be more accessible to the general population than a $1000 device and could help 5G devices gain traction. This 2020 launch window is also noteworthy as we’d expect way more countries to offer 5G networks by then. HMD probably won’t be the only company offering cheaper 5G phones next year though.

The first wave of mobile technology is usually pretty expensive to begin with, but we generally see a noteworthy drop in price as the months and years go by (see multi-camera phones, for one). So who knows, by the time we see a $500 to $600 Nokia 5G phone, we could see a $300 or $400 Xiaomi or Huawei 5G device too.

Source: https://www.androidauthority.com/nokia-5g-phone-1021031/

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The Future

The OnePlus TV is coming in September, but maybe not to you

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The OnePlus TV is coming next month, founder Pete Lau revealed today — just one year after the phonemaker first announced it would build a TV set.

While Lau’s blog post doesn’t confirm any juicy technical details, such as whether they’ll run Android TV and range between 43 and 75 inches diagonally — as filings with the Bluetooth SIG revealed earlier this month — he does say the TV will first be available exclusively in India, and it sure sounds like it could take some time to hit other parts of the world.

“We are also working hard to launch OnePlus TV in North America, Europe and China regions as soon as we establish partnerships with most of local and regional content providers,” he writes.

Based on previous filings, the OnePlus TV for India is likely to have a 43-inch panel, while we can probably expect a 75-inch model in the US and China.

While OnePlus has the reputation of a startup and building TVs might seem…ambitious…it’s worth remembering that OnePlus is an arm of the same BBK Electronics that also owns Oppo and Vivo.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2019/8/20/20825824/oneplus-tv-september-release-date-india

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The Future

Apple Watch Series 5 will come with new titanium and ceramic casings

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The Apple Watch is the most popular smartwatch on the market and alongside AirPods is turning into a key product category for Apple. The company will look to offer more options with its upcoming series 5 lineup including titanium and ceramic versions in both 40mm and 44mm casings.

Apple Watch Series 5 may come with new titanium and ceramic casings

Brazilian site iHelp BR discovered the upcoming options hidden in the latest watchOS 6 beta. Apple previously had ceramic versions of the Watch, but never offered a titanium one. Other than that we have no other details on what to expect from the new Apple watches.

Apple Watch Series 5 may come with new titanium and ceramic casings

According to past rumors, the Apple Watch Series 5 is expected to launch alongside the iPhone 11 line on September 10.

Source: https://www.gsmarena.com/apple_watch_series_5_may_come_with_new_titanium_and_ceramic_casings_-news-38762.php

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