Google Granted Multi-Flash Smartphone Camera Patent

Search giant Google has patented a technology that would incorporate a multi-flash camera on smartphones. Patent 8,363,157 granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office details how LED lighting can be used to allow a handset to take images with multiple flashes.

The patent, which relates to "flash mechanisms for digital cameras that are incorporated into mobile communication devices such as smartphones and tablet computers," states that a smartphone's shots can be improved through boosting flash capabilities. Google's patent showcases how different setups could be used to see flash modules either individually activated, triggered at the same time, or used individually in order to remove certain shadows in poor lighting. It'll also be possible to take several pictures in succession to allow users to shoot the same image with different light settings.

A mobile device could essentially take a batch of shots, which it'll then subsequently merge together in order to produce the best possible image; "such images may appear to have greater color, contrast, or depth than a regular single image of the group would have." This technique is known as HDR (High Dynamic Range).

Other recent Google patents include turning one's hand into a touchscreen and aiming to implement a laser keyboard for Project Glass.

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  • A Bad Day
    Yay, more patent wars...
  • joytech22
    A Bad DayYay, more patent wars...
    Not really, fairly smart actually.
    It's like a sort of built-in HDR or can make macro photography less annoying (like trying to fit an LED between the camera and the object).
  • pacomac
    If this was an Apple patent we would have world war three break out. How was this patent ever granted since its common for multiple light sources to be combined in this way... Just look at car indicators or the new LED traffic lights!
  • joytech22
    pacomacIf this was an Apple patent we would have world war three break out. How was this patent ever granted since its common for multiple light sources to be combined in this way... Just look at car indicators or the new LED traffic lights!1. Car Indicators do not have cameras.
    2. Traffic lights don't have camera's built into them, they are separate and only use the flash to highlight the light-sensitive license plates and driver if possible.
    3. I think you are thinking of just the lights themselves, but car indicators and traffic lights do NOT fire at different rates to create an "ideal" setting for a camera.

    PS.. If you didn't detect the hints, I think you forgot there's a camera involved in this patent.
  • Not you as well Google!
  • virtualban
    Inspired by the picture above, I would like to see "multi-camera camera patent", as in, the ability to provide stereoscopic imagery for different head orientations and angles.
    Just an idea. Hope Apple does not run to the patent office with it.
  • Marcus52
    I'm all for protecting the rights of creators - especially when some of the patents involve a big development expense. It looks to me like Google may have something that actually deserves a patent here. That being said, I simply don't know what exists on cameras these days; I do know they have some kinds of multi-flash technology, but how that compares - I'm clueless.

    If it ISN'T more than what we see on some digital cameras, the patent system has failed us; if it is, then it's all good.

    The same applies to Apple patents. Some of those just look too much like what already existed to most of us, and it upsets us to see people take credit for things they didn't really create - especially when it means financial reward is being given to an entity that doesn't deserve it. The failing isn't in that we have patents, or even in a company like Apple, it's in the ability of the office to determine the worth of submitted patents, if it allows these things to happen.

    As lay people though, we have to remember that we are looking at these things from the outside, and it's really hard for us to judge them fairly. Patents are a good thing, sloppy administration of them is not, but in most cases we aren't well enough informed to truly know what is fair and what isn't.
  • InvalidError
    "Ring Flash" have been around for a long time so at least the part about firing multiple LEDs together to remove some shadows has already been done.

    Combining multiple exposures with different light levels and timing though does sound like something that might be new.
  • davemac
    @Marcus52, it might seem like companies are trying to patent pre-existing ideas/technologies but that's because before you can patent an improvement to an existing product you have to license the technology that you're building on and specify all those details in application. It's extremely rare to see a totally new product that isn't based on an existing idea or patent. And that's why after the FTC anti-trust case against Google, they agreed not to sue other companies over "standard-essential patents" anymore. Because if you block access to these standard essential and technologies nobody else can have a stake in the market. Lots of great info about trademarks, patents, copyrights etc on

    This is cool technology. This plus the new Blackberry 10 'rewind time' feature would be really cool together.