The US Patent & Trademark Office recently published a patent application from Google that details their invention that will one day bring a little fun to Android smartphones. The new feature is to allow Android phone owners to take photos that will automatically create 3D Photos.
Overview of Google's Patent
To create a stereoscopic 3-D image, two images of a scene are taken at two different locations. In a conventional approach, the two different locations correspond to the locations of two different lenses, which could be on either the same camera or on two different cameras. Thus, 3-D images have traditionally been taken using specialized cameras, such as a camera that has two different lenses and two different image sensors.
With the increasing number of display devices, such as televisions, computer monitors, and smartphones, being able to display 3-D images, there is an interest in making 3-D image creation more accessible to the average user. However, a camera that is equipped with two lenses and two image sensors for 3-D picture taking is likely to be substantially more expensive than a conventional camera that has a single lens and a single image sensor. In addition, many users may be hesitant to purchase a new camera just for 3-D image creation. Thus, there is a need to provide methods and systems that enable a user to create 3-D images using a single lens and a single image sensor.
Google invention covers both a method and camera to automatically create 3D images or "stereoscopic images." An android smartphone camera will capture an initial image at an initial position. A target displacement from the initial position will be determined for a desired stereoscopic effect and provide the smartphone user with specific instructions in where to position the camera for a second shot. While the camera is in motion, an estimated displacement from the initial position is calculated. When the estimated displacement corresponds to the target displacement, the camera automatically captures a candidate image. An acceptability analysis is performed to determine whether the candidate image has acceptable image quality and acceptable similarity to the initial image. If the candidate image passes the acceptability analysis, a stereoscopic image is created based on the initial and candidate images.
As you can see in patent figures 3A-C, Google's invention is to allow a single Android camera to capture a 3D image by taking two shots from two angles and having the camera system stitch the photos together to create one 3D image.
Google's patent also covers 3D technology for 3D glasses. Google states that "Examples of 3-D content viewing methods include anachrome (red/cyan) glasses, liquid crystal shutter glasses, linearly/circularly polarized glasses, and autostereoscopy, where different images may be presented to each eye of the viewer without the need for other headgear." Theoretically, Google could one day set this up for their Glass product with two micro cameras.
Google originally filed their patent application under serial number 601845 a year ago and was published recently by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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