With Sony announcing the price and release date for its PlayStation VR this week, following the launch of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift in recent weeks, virtual reality is the hot topic in the tech world at the moment. Add to that, Google’s reported development of a VR headset and the huge investment being made in augmented reality startup Magic Leap, and it is clear everyone is trying to get in on the action — and that includes Apple.
It has already been reported that Apple has established a big team to work on virtual reality within its California headquarters. Now, a leaked component reportedly set to be included in the iPhone 7 Plus suggests that Apple is looking to future-proof its smartphones for whatever AR or VR push it makes in the coming years.
— Pocketnow (@Pocketnow) March 15, 2016
A leaked camera module seen by Taiwanese-based website Pocketnow suggests the next large-screen iPhone model will come with a dual-camera setup that will allow for a range of new features, many of which could be linked to Apple’s VR efforts.
According to the supply chain sources speaking to the website, one 12-megapixel sensor would work in a traditional way, taking images at a standard focal length, while the second 12-megapixel camera will take images in telephoto with up to three times zoom. This would potentially allow Apple to develop systems to scan real-world objects into a virtual world, or by using the depth-sensing capabilities to create augmented reality applications.
This dual-camera system could be the first benefits Apple is seeing from its purchase of Israeli startup LinX last year for a reported $20 million. Prior to its acquisition, LinX produced cameras for tablets and smartphones, and its systems use an array of sensors that capture multiple images at the same time. Proprietary algorithms are then used to gauge depth and create three-dimensional images.
The leaker reportedly suggests the new camera module will appear in the iPhone 7 Plus but there is no mention of it appearing in the smaller iPhone 7 when both smartphones are released later this year. Next week, Apple is expected to unveil a 4-inch iPhone 5se, but this model will feature components from Apple’s current line-up of smartphones rather than promising innovative features.
Virtual and augmented reality are two related but different takes on head-mounted display technology. With virtual reality, a head-mounted display is used to fully immerse its user in a 3D environment. Augmented reality instead overlays computer-generated images on top of real-world objects, similar to the display a jet pilot sees when in flight.