Apple patent is for generating a 3D model on an iPhone

Apple has been granted a patent (number 20180182162) for generating a three-dimensional model using a portable electronic recording device — the device being, most logically, an iPhone.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that users of electronic devices can view various information displayed by the devices. For example, a user can direct an electronic device to display a representation of a three-dimensional object (e.g., a photograph), or allow a user to navigate a representation of a location or of a virtual world (e.g., navigate through a series of images representing a city, such as a series of images in a street view of a mapping application). 

A user can direct the device to display such information using any suitable approach, including, for example by selecting the information from a locally stored or remotely accessed source using an input mechanism. Once selected, the information can be displayed. 

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Of course, devices such as the iPhone can, at any given moment, only provide a partial representation of the displayed information. For example, when a 3D object is displayed, the smartphone can only display the object from a single perspective. To view other perspectives, you’ll have to select a different image representing the same object, or provide an input (e.g., selecting a button or dragging a mouse) to cause the object to rotate or spin, providing other perspectives for the object. Similarly, to navigate a representation of a 3D environment, you’ll likely have to provide successive inputs using the iPhone’s input mechanism to move through the environment and change the displayed images to reflect your movement through the environment. 

However, in some cases, you may not be able to provide an input to an input mechanism if, say, your hands are busy. Another mechanism may then be necessary to allow you to view other portions of a displayed 3D object or 3D environment. 

In addition, Apple notes that users typically may not have an easy mechanism for generating three-dimensional representations of three-dimensional objects. Apple’s invention involves the recording a video of a 3D environment or 3D object, and processing the video to generate a 3D model that can be navigated in an order other than that of the recording. 

Here’s Apple’s summary of the idea: “Systems and methods are provided for navigating a three-dimensional model using deterministic movement of an electronic device. An electronic device can load and provide an initial display of a three dimensional model (e.g., of an environment or of an object). As the user moves the electronic device, motion sensing components can detect the device movement and adjust the displayed portion of the three-dimensional model to reflect the movement of the device. 

“By walking with the device in the user's real environment, a user can virtually navigate a representation of a three-dimensional environment. In some embodiments, a user can record an object or environment using an electronic device, and tag the recorded image and orientation of the programmable device relative to the three-dimensional object at the first time responsive to detection of movement ages or video with movement information describing the movement of the device during the recording. The recorded information can then be processed with the movement information to generate a three-dimensional model of the recorded environment or object.”

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.