Apple Inc. (AAPL) Receives Patent For Light Field Lytro-Like Camera

Posted Nov 26, 2013

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has received a patent for a camera system that has a micro lens adaptor to enable refocusing on an image after that initial photo is taken just like the Lytro light-field camera does.  Apple received U.S. patent number No. 8,593,564, which is for a  “Digital camera including refocusable imaging mode adaptor.” This lets a user take a photo at a certain resolution and refocus the image afterwards.  This technology could eventually be integrated into the iPhone.

The Lytro device was founded by Stanford University computer science graduate student Ren Ng.  Lytro received around $90 million in funding from investors like New Enterprise Associates, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, and North Bridge Venture Partners.  Steve Jobs, the late co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) was interested in the technology, and invited Ng to his home for a live demonstration.  Apple cited Ng’s invention as prior art, but said that improvements can be made to the picture resolution and quality.

Apple’s design uses a movable adaptor between the lens element and the imaging sensor. The adaptor has the microlens array, which lets the camera operate in two modes: high-resolution non-refocusable and low-resolution refocuasable. The microlens component can be moved farther from the sensor, but cannot be removed from the light path.

The setback is the size of the equipment.  A light-field array cannot be fit into an iPhone and light-field photography produces lower resolution results than standard smartphone cameras.  Apple is researching ways to allow a device to switch between the two modes of photography, but that may lead to more technical issues.

[Source: Apple Insider]