Apple Exploring Thermal Imaging for Computer Vision, Patent Suggests

Apple Exploring Thermal Imaging for Computer Vision, Patent SuggestsA new patent application suggests Apple is working on computer vision technology that incorporates heat mapping.

Vaguely titled “Method And System For Determining At Least One Property Related To At Least Part Of A Real Environment,” the patent application details computer vision techniques for assessing objects in a dynamic environment with multiple moving elements, most notably through the use of a thermal imaging camera. As AppleInsider explains, the idea is essentially to pair such a camera with a regular 2D camera and combine the data. Together with display data concerning things like color and contrast from the regular camera, the thermal imaging would offer another way to differentiate objects, and perhaps especially people and animals, from the rest of a given image.

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It’s an area of innovation that would make sense for Apple, which hasn’t shied away from sophisticated imaging technology for its premium devices. Its latest luxury smartphones, for example, feature infrared sensors designed to allow their computer vision system to assess 3D maps of users’ faces, allowing for sophisticated biometric authentication.

Of course, the mere existence of a patent is never a solid indication of something that’s really in the pipeline, as Apple tends to cover its R&D bases with a wide range of intellectual property filings, many of which cover technologies that never see the light of day in real Apple products. But given that this particular patent was just filed – it’s dated September 20, 2018 – it does suggests that this is an area Apple’s engineers are actively exploring; and the company’s focus on AI would jibe with its increasing emphasis on the Augmented Reality capabilities of its latest smartphones.

Sources: AppleInsider, US Patent & Trademark Office