Ap­ple looks at new 3-D sen­sor

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT INTERNATIONAL - Alex Webb and Yuji Naka­mura

AP­PLE is work­ing on a rear-fac­ing 3-D sen­sor sys­tem for the iPhone in 2019, an­other step to­ward turn­ing the hand­set into a lead­ing aug­mented-real­ity (AR) de­vice, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the plan.

Ap­ple is eval­u­at­ing a dif­fer­ent tech­nol­ogy from the one it cur­rently uses in the TrueDepth sen­sor sys­tem on the front of the iPhone X, the peo­ple said.

The ex­ist­ing sys­tem re­lies on a struc­tured-light tech­nique that projects a pat­tern of 30 000 laser dots on to a user’s face and mea­sures the dis­tor­tion to gen­er­ate an ac­cu­rate 3-D image for au­then­ti­ca­tion.

The planned rear-fac­ing sen­sor would in­stead use a time-of-flight ap­proach that cal­cu­lates the time it takes for a laser to bounce off sur­round­ing ob­jects to cre­ate a three-di­men­sional pic­ture of the en­vi­ron­ment.

The com­pany is ex­pected to keep the TrueDepth sys­tem, so fu­ture iPhones will have both front and rear-fac­ing 3-D sens­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Ap­ple has started dis­cus­sions with prospec­tive sup­pli­ers of the new sys­tem, the peo­ple said. Com­pa­nies man­u­fac­tur­ing time-of-flight sen­sors in­clude In­fi­neon Tech­nolo­gies, Sony, STMi­cro­elec­tron­ics and Pana­sonic.

The test­ing of the tech­nol­ogy is still in early stages and it could end up not be­ing used in the fi­nal ver­sion of the phone, the peo­ple said.

They asked not to be iden­ti­fied dis­cussing un­re­leased fea­tures. An Ap­ple spokesper­son de­clined to com­ment.

The ad­di­tion of a rear-fac­ing sen­sor would en­able more aug­mented-real­ity ap­pli­ca­tions in the iPhone. Ap­ple chief ex­ec­u­tive Tim Cook con­sid­ers AR po­ten­tially as rev­o­lu­tion­ary as the smart­phone it­self.

He’s talked up the tech­nol­ogy on Good Morn­ing Amer­ica.

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