Apple was awarded a patent on Thursday for a multi-point focusingsystem that integrates with devices capable of multitouch input,possibly pointing to future use of the technology in anext-generation iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. The awarded U.S. patent No. 2012/0120227 for "multi-point touch focus" describes a system that lets theuser of a camera-equipped device select two or more areas of focuson a touchscreen which, when a picture is taken, are passed througha dedicated image processor to produce optimal sharpness andexposure for both regions. The patent background mentions that as the capabilities ofautomated image capturing progresses, so do the "possibilities forcapturing images not as desired by the photographer." To solve thisdilemma, Apple proposes a solution that combines multitouch input,live-preview imaging and advanced auto-focusing algorithms andtracking assets. |
From the patent abstract: A camera includes a lens arranged to focus an image on an imagesensor and a touch sensitive visual display for freely selectingtwo or more regions of interest on a live preview image by touchinput. An image processor is coupled to the image sensor and thetouch sensitive visual display. The image processor displays thelive preview image according to the image focused on the imagesensor by the lens. The image processor further receives theselection the regions of interest and controls acquisition of theimage from the image sensor based on the characteristics of theimage in regions that correspond to at least two of the regions ofinterest on the live preview image. The image processor mayoptimize sharpness and/or exposure of the image in at least two ofthe regions of interest.
The image processor may track movement ofthe selected regions of interest. As seen above, the patent calls for an image processor thatcontinuously tracks the user-defined "regions of interest" in acombination of live image processing and auto-focus technologysimilar to that found in the iPhone 4S. Unlike the current handset,however, the focus will not be limited to center-weighting orface-detection and will in theory choose the best mix of camerasettings to achieve the highest possible clarity in the multipleselected areas. In order to facilitate the multi-point focus acquisition, thededicated imaging processor calculates the two or more user-definedregions and adjusts the camera's focus drive to change the distancebetween the image sensor and the rear element of the lens.
Inaddition, the regions' sizes can be changed on-the-fly by pinchingthe touchscreen, which will change how the imaging processor willweight the photo's overall focus. Also noted was the ability to perform exposure adjustments usingthe "regions of interest" multi-point method. Currently, thethird-party Camera+ app allows users to spot-meter a live image,but Apple's solution would take that functionality a step furtherby introducing multiple metering points.
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