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Thursday, February 18, 2010, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Apple filing for improved handset lenses shows forward facing camera

A newly revealed Apple patent application shows plans for superior picture and video recording performance on portable devices, and also depicts a handheld device with a forward facing camera.

The application revealed this week, entitled "Apparatus and Method for Compensating for Variations in Digital Cameras," notes that the current manufacturing process for digital video cameras is inconsistent and often results in flaws. Camera modules are manufactured separately as independent units before they are incorporated into a larger device, such as an iPhone or iPod.

The process creates cameras that may have minor differences in their physical or operational attributes. Variations can occur in lens thickness, color response, wavelength cutoff and more.

"Similar cameras manufactured on similar product lines may operate non-uniformly. For example manufacturing variations may result in variations in response to external stimuli, such as ambient light," The application reads. "Such variations in camera responses may produce a non-uniformity in images rendered by digital cameras of the same type, consequently, leading to an inconsistent product performance and to variations in product lines(s)."

Apple's proposed fix would use acquired "video images of colored light" and would measure a light intensity of response of the camera to that colored light. Using this method of measurement, the specific camera's "bias" could be determined and compensated for, allowing a more uniform level of quality.

Another method could employ a "signal processor" that would adjust the calibrated color intensities of images and videos captured by the camera, and compensate for them based on a preconfigured calibration.

Images accompanying the patent application show a mobile device with a forward facing camera.

Camera


Some users had hoped for Apple to reveal a forward facing camera on its iPad, and alleged parts for the device show a potential spot to place such a camera. However the device, revealed by Apple in late January, does not include a built-in camera of any type.

Much like the iSight camera included Apple's line of portable MacBooks, a forward facing camera on an iPad or iPhone could allow for video conferencing, self-portraits or self-recording with the portable hardware.