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Apple Files HDR Imaging Patent Application

By - Source: USPTO | B 26 comments

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application that reveals the company's intent to protect high-dynamic range (HDR) photo capability in its products.

Apple had filed the application on June 9, 2011 and before the release of the first HDR capable iPhone.

The patent application describes an image sensor and the HDR feature to take "two or more reads" of the sensor following an initial picture. "Data read out during these scans may be deinterleaved by an image signal processor and combined into a high dynamic range image," the document reads.

The process to generate a HDR picture Apple lays out is not different from the usual idea to combine characteristics of multiple picture into a single picture to achieve "greater dynamic range of luminances between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard digital imaging techniques". However, the company states that independently taken pictures may be slightly different due to hand movement/ Added HDR capability to an image sensor would be  able to eliminate downsides that would cause the combination of pictures to be misaligned.

In detail, the application states: "To generate a HDR image during a single exposure of the frame (i.e., fixed amount of time t during which the rolling shutter reset moves across a frame), multiple reads of the same row of pixels of the image sensor may occur. For example, a first data read, of the data stored in a row of pixels, may be undertaken at a time n, where n is a fixed fractional time of time t. This time n may be, for example, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/10, 1/20, or another value of the frame time t. This time n may be represented as line. That is, the first data read may occur at a time n subsequent to the reset of a row of pixels by the rolling shutter reset."

It is just a patent application at this time and we are not aware of any patents that may be collide with Apple's request. However, since HDR photography has been in the mainstream since the middle of the last decade, it would be highly unusual, if there was no prior art.

 

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  • -1 Hide
    vittau , December 20, 2012 1:20 AM
    So, instead of reading all the lines and then reading again, they're gonna read every line twice? Genius! Definitely warrants a patent.
  • 0 Hide
    senupe , December 20, 2012 1:25 AM
    I guess so, they are reading two pictures or more depending on the shutter speed.
    Just hope this is not affecting actual HDR usage and the way to improve it further.
  • 0 Hide
    assasin32 , December 20, 2012 1:31 AM
    senupeI guess so, they are reading two pictures or more depending on the shutter speed.Just hope this is not affecting actual HDR usage and the way to improve it further.


    Reading from 2 or more pictures, and changes image based on it. Only difference I see if how many times they read the data or how they read it. I bet there is a lot of prior art from other companies on this. Heck I just used HDR Camera+ on my android phone to take some photos which works off of 3 photos and than makes a 4th HDR picture.
  • Display all 26 comments.
  • -5 Hide
    ericburnby , December 20, 2012 1:53 AM
    I don't know why there would be prior art. You can have numerous methods to achieve the same result, so just because cameras have had HDR doesn't mean there's prior art. Nobody can patent HDR itself, but you could patent your "specific method" of implementing it.

    This is just like when it was discovered Apple filed for a facial recognition patent. Everyone was whining "how can Apple patent facial recognition". Apple wasn't trying to patent facial recognition (which would be impossible), they patented a specific method for doing it. If you search the USPTO you'll find numerous facial recognition patents. Some for still images, some for video, some need bright light, some work in low light, some are highly secure, some require a single frontal picture, some require multiple pictures from the front & sides and on and on. Apple's version was a low security system that required minimal processing power suitable for portable devices and their patent specifically stated that.

    Yet people still whine on thinking Apple was trying to patent something that already existed (facial recognition).
  • 5 Hide
    A Bad Day , December 20, 2012 1:56 AM
    Eric, you have any idea how much patents can be stretched? I bet every single invention violates at least one patent according to the patent trolls' view.
  • 1 Hide
    ethanolson , December 20, 2012 2:36 AM
    I wonder how long it'll be before we finally get digicam sensors with signal to noise ratios better than 60db. If we got up to about 105db then the need for HDR would be cut in half because we could have faster exposures and still retain so much shadow detail without garbage noise that we could redraw the tone curves to accommodate 14 stops of exposure. It'd be awesome.

    Anyway, Apple's approach is novel.
  • 1 Hide
    cRACKmONKEY421 , December 20, 2012 4:36 AM
    Patents seem lame unless it's for a real invention. This idea doesn't seem new or revolutionary at all. At best, it's just a fairly obvious step in an established technology. But patents bring in money, and that is what drives corporations. If corporations are people (corporate personhood), they're real assholes.
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , December 20, 2012 5:22 AM
    My wifes HTC One S comes with HDR app built in! So sorry HTC but three years from now you will be Sued by Apple, Inventor of HDR Photography!
  • 0 Hide
    Cryio , December 20, 2012 5:43 AM
    This would be one of the most retarded patents ever.

  • 1 Hide
    The_Trutherizer , December 20, 2012 6:08 AM
    CryioThis would be one of the most retarded patents ever.


    Its as retarded as the rest. They take old ideas and patent it for smartphones and in so doing inhibits other smartphone manufacturers from implementing technologies to which Apple really had no original input. A smartphone is just a computer so I don't know how they get away with such farcical behaviour. If the Americans are happy with it fine, but anybody who is interested can go read the history of HDR imaging on wikipedia. I don't think the world should be held technologically hostage just because some US patent office can't be bothered to use wikipedia.
  • 0 Hide
    rantoc , December 20, 2012 6:13 AM
    Sounds alot like the HAM mode on the good ol' Amiga... Have one base image then add another with the differences.

    "Hold-And-Modify, usually abbreviated as HAM, is a display mode of the Commodore Amiga computer. It uses a highly unusual technique to express the color of pixels, allowing many more colors to appear on screen than would otherwise be possible."
  • 7 Hide
    masterofevil22 , December 20, 2012 6:14 AM
    Fukkkkk Apple. They are the most retarded, patent happy retards of the 21st Century...period. FUK THEM
  • -1 Hide
    InvalidError , December 20, 2012 12:04 PM
    Isn't that exactly what telescope arrays already do? Take multiple images of teh same piece of sky at slightly different angles and apply DSP to enhance resolution by canceling sensor noise, atmospheric noise and other variables.

    I think the NASA and other similar agencies must have heaps of prior art in that domain.

    Many cameras also have a panoramic feature that lets you scan an area and automatically stitch images/video together to create a higher resolution final result.
  • -1 Hide
    rantoc , December 20, 2012 12:05 PM
    The_TrutherizerIts as retarded as the rest. They take old ideas and patent it for smartphones and in so doing inhibits other smartphone manufacturers from implementing technologies to which Apple really had no original input. A smartphone is just a computer so I don't know how they get away with such farcical behaviour. If the Americans are happy with it fine, but anybody who is interested can go read the history of HDR imaging on wikipedia. I don't think the world should be held technologically hostage just because some US patent office can't be bothered to use wikipedia.


    US patent office patents get thrown out more and more in courts around the world as many newer patents are to generic to pass in other country's offices. I feel sorry for the real US inventors as they could come to suffer in court due to the offices poor rep.
  • -2 Hide
    ericburnby , December 20, 2012 12:24 PM
    CryioThis would be one of the most retarded patents ever.

    This would be one of the most retarded comments ever. As usual, Tom's posters living up to their reputation if knowing little about tech but having a "know it all attitude" about it at the ame time.
  • 0 Hide
    davewolfgang , December 20, 2012 12:31 PM
    Eric - we have something for what you "claim" crApple is doing - it's called COPYRIGHT(ing) the actually code that does it. Not the "results" of that code.

    That's what they SHOULD do.

    But then, they could only block people from using that EXACT code to do it - if someone wrote how to do it in another programming language - they couldn't do squat about it - which is why they are trying to Patent the RESULTS. A blatant abuse of the patent system.
  • 0 Hide
    _Cosmin_ , December 20, 2012 12:57 PM
    Ups, i just fart as i read apple and patent in same sentence... i should patent it before apple or i`m screwed!
    I think USPTO are on apples payroll... the antitrust goverment agency should investigate this !
  • 0 Hide
    dozerman , December 20, 2012 1:13 PM
    Stories like this piss me off. I want to hear more about apple being denied patents. Those are funny.
  • 1 Hide
    ericlw , December 20, 2012 1:13 PM
    HDR has been around since the early film days. how can apple think they can patent the hdr process.
  • 0 Hide
    fractalsphere , December 20, 2012 1:15 PM
    I hope this isn't an attempt to patent HDR, which has existed for nearly a century, or an attempt to make it exclusive to Apple products. HDR is much more accessible to the general public now, and shouldn't be stifled.
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