Sunday, August 13, 2017

Depth Sensing with Apple's Dual Cameras

Apple's developer conference videos are always worth digging through, even if you are not a programmer. Some give an insight into Apple's technology, and a few clues as to where Apple is headed. Apple's dual cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus does a neat parlor trick, mainly a simulated bokeh effect. Watch this video:

I have read that Samsung had this blurred background effect "two years ago", which I am not sure is true. It is a "selective focus" mode where you select where the area of focus is to be on the photo. It is not really bokeh, but it's something.

The difference with Apple's implementation is that they are using the dual cameras to measure depth. This allows them to apply effects based on this information. This is an entirely different way of working than Samsung's approach. For one thing, since the depth information is recorded with the image, this bokeh effect can be applied after the image has been taken. In the demos in the video, the programmers show other effects that can be applied after the fact. And the most important thing of all is that all of this is available in a newly minted API that any programmer can use for their imaging or photography application. Plus they have now implemented dual camera capture. Plus, there is ARkit (more on this later).

There is a companion video where Apple's programmers show how to work with images that have depth data. It's interesting as well, but not necessarily as eye-opening for me as the video I have linked to.

I hope that Apple manages to squeeze dual cameras into their "non-plus" version of their next phone. I'm there.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Google Pixel On Sale

The Google Pixel is now up to $200 off and is bundled with a Daydream headset. Why now?

  • Completely subjective evidence. I have actually never seen someone with one. I think most Android users have not either.
  • It is a nice phone, but most users don't care. Their friends have a Samsung phone, so that's what they ask for. People don't mind spending for a nice phone, since they can pay for them on an installment plan. On top of that, Samsung phones are often discounted.
  • Project Daydream has failed to get any traction at all, since it only works with a handful of phones. Unlike Google cardboard.
  • Apple is getting ready to release a new phone, whatever they will call it. There is possibly a high end model (according to all the rumors). Selling the Pixel at a discount is a pre-emptive strike. There is most likely a new Pixel in the works. Dual cameras, augmented reality.
  • Speaking of which, Apple's AR push will steal the limelight from the nascent low-end VR efforts. I know that AR and VR are only distantly related, but people will kind of lump them together. Dumb headset that you have to wear, versus just pointing your phone - win for Apple.
I think Google's handset efforts are doing OK, but not gangbusters. They have sold Pixels, but not a lot of them. It is hard now to break out in the Android marketplace, since there are many good, capable phones now. Google has yet to find that killer feature. The phone's camera is good, but the iPhone 7 Plus's dual camera crushes it. Running stock Android is not a killer feature. Only geeks care about that. Most people just want a good handset with a nice screen which works well.