Folks who wander around the US Patent Office (USPTO) website have discovered a patent application from Apple that describes a technique used to avoid having blurry photos. Named “Image capturing device having continuous image capture”, the idea is to have the camera capture frames at all times, and when the user presses the shutter button, the camera has not only the frame that was intended for capture, but also many more before (and possibly) after the shutter button action. Some cameras already do this today.While some observers say that smartphones lack a powerful dedicated video processor, I would say that this is already not relevant anymore: chips like NVIDIA’s Tegra 4 use the full might of its on-board graphics processor (GPU) to replace a once-dedicated image processing block. By just about any performance metric, that GPU is probably faster than most of the photo-chip in larger cameras, and in addition to that, none of them will run a game at 60FPS. Programmability wins.
In any case, this means that Apple and other smartphone makers will soon be able to take advantage of those capabilities to gather more camera data, and use it to produce better photos. In this instance, the Apple Patent proposes a methodology that would use the images recorded before the shutter action to find an photo which is better that the one the user intended to take. This could fix last-second shakes for example.
It’s also not hard to imagine that given enough processing power and processing time, the Camera app could also check for persons with closed eyes (in fact, Samsung, BlackBerry and Windows Phone already have similar features), or use the previous frames data to reconstruct or augment the final photo to make it perfect. Some forensic video tools already do this to sharpen or stabilize video footage, so those are well-known techniques. Check VReveal, which uses those technologies for consumer use.
While this is completely in the realm of the “possible”, we benefits in relation to the cost needs to be determined. If additional memory or power is required, the trade off may not be so obvious. The other, simpler, way to tackle the same problem is to simply use a better lens with a larger aperture, or a better stabilization system, like Nokia does on the Lumia 920.