A patent application filed by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) reveals that that Cupertino, California technology giant is working on a method to create a super-resolution image using an “image capture device.”
The patent, original filed by Apple in 2012, describes a method of creating super-resolution images using a combination of burst photos and optical image stabilization to stitch together and create images that exceed the physical megapixel limit of current camera sensors.
Image stabilization typically allows for sharper photos and steadier videos through various methods such as motion tracking and the use of gyros to remove or reduce the effect vibrations and shakes while taking a photo. Optical image stabilization methods are also known through proprietary names from digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera and lens manufacturers, such as Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) technology.
According to the patent filed by Apple, the invention would use a camera with optical image stabilization, which would take multiple lower resolution images offset slightly, which would then be combined to create a higher resolution image.
The patent abstract describes the process:
“A system and method for creating a super-resolution image using an image capturing device. In one embodiment, an electronic image sensor captures a reference optical sample through an optical path. Thereafter, an optical image stabilization (OIS) processor to adjusts the optical path to the electronic image sensor by a known amount. A second optical sample is then captured along the adjusted optical path, such that the second optical sample is offset from the first optical sample by no more than a sub-pixel offset. The OIS processor may reiterate this process to capture a plurality of optical samples at a plurality of offsets. The optical samples may be combined to create a super-resolution image.”
Previous rumors regarding the next iteration of Apple’s iPhone, which some have called the iPhone 6 pointed to the possibility of Apple implementing optical image stabilization in the upcoming iOS device. However, the latest rumors now point to Apple using electronic image stabilization instead to save costs, according to MacRumors.
It is possible that Apple may plan to implement optical image stabilization in a future iPhone or iOS device, as the company originally filed the patent application in November 2012.
While any hardware unveilings are unlikely to happen at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June, a research note from KGI Securities analyst, Ming Chi-Kuo, point to a new 4.7” and 5.5” iPhone release sometime in the second half of 2014.