Apple's New iPhone Patents

Two New Camera-Related Patents Granted to Apple
Consumers look to Apple for innovative technology that enables them to do more with their smartphones, tablets, computers and more. To meet this demand, Apple has built a reputation as an aggressive seeker of patent protection.

It is not unusual for Apple to file dozens of patent applications at a time. Additionally, they have a habit of acquiring patents from smaller innovators, which further helps to support their reputation as a leader in technology innovations.

That reputation is bolstered by two of the new U.S. patents that were recently granted to Apple. Both are related to camera technology. While one of these inventions may one day end up in the hands of consumers, the other may be used by Apple as part of the manufacturing process.

The Standalone Depth Camera

U.S. Patent No. 10,298,913 is directed to Apple's family of TrueDepth camera innovations. This patent, in particular, requires a table-mounted device that is able to quickly and comprehensively scan an entire room and its contents.

According to the disclosure in the patent, the device relies upon a scanner and a light-emitting transmitter to generate time-of-flight data. This data then produces a depth map that is akin to the capabilities of a smartphone camera that is enabled to capture images in three dimensions.

In the case of the current patent, the device includes a gimbal that rotates so that the device may capture the entire room. As it turns, light pulses are projected all around with the assistance of a mirror mechanism. Some embodiments of the invention include the projection of images onto objects in the room using the calculated depth data for reference.

This is not Apple's first patent that is related to the TrueDepth camera technology. Other patents are directed toward the company's face ID system, which is sometimes called a "vision system." This system measures the depth of the subject's facial features to create a map. This data is then transformed into a mathematical representation that makes determining a particular subject's identity with unquestionable certainty.

It is unknown at this time what Apple plans to do with the subject matter of the most recent patent.

Body Including Surface Having Concentric Annular Portions

The other patent that was recently granted to Apple appears to be directed to technology that may be used in the manufacturing process. Referred to as a "confocal inspection system," the invention is capable of analyzing light at narrow, specific depths within a chosen scene or object. To obtain the most accurate data, information that may be obtained from other depths is ignored.

In general practice, similar devices may be used to create a three-dimensional image one thin slice at a time. The optical properties of a selected sample also may be measured by such a device.

Commonly, these devices would use a Fresnel lens to capture the necessary data. This new invention from Apple uses ring-shaped, or annular, components to accomplish this instead. These annular portions reflect light in order to capture the desired data. Such devices may be used in conjunction with materials science or the inspection of semiconductors, suggesting that this technology may not be intended for use by consumers.

Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner.  He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.   


Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005.  He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree.  He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010.  By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients. 



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