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Apple Breakthrough Could Star in iPhone 8 and Apple Car

Apple has been awarded a new patent for facial-recognition technology that has stoked flames the company might be planning to integrate it into the iPhone 8 and Apple Car technology.

The patent, called "Enhanced face detection using depth information," describes a method by which a device's built-in camera would capture a depth map and places a window frame over each face. Using the depth information it's already mapped, the technology in the patent, which was earlier reported on by AppleInsider, would scale each face to accurately depict how far away or close people are in the frame.

Interestingly, the technology was invented by Primesense, the company that created Microsoft's original Kinect and Apple subsequently acquired in 2013.

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While Apple files for patents all the time on technologies that might or might not make their way to its devices, this one describes in detail a feature that the rumor mill has been churning out about Apple's iPhone 8. Specifically, rumors have said that Apple wants to deliver a high-end front camera in its iPhone 8 that would feature 3D-sensing capabilities similar to what's described in the patent. It might also be used in augmented reality applications, which Apple has also said it hopes to deliver in future devices.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has been one of the foremost sources for Apple's augmented reality plans, has also said that the camera would use facial detection to authenticate users who want to access iOS or possibly make Apple Pay payments. The latest Apple patent suggests it's capable of doing just that.

But there's also more to the patent than the iPhone.

In addition to iPhones, Apple is rumored to be considering augmented reality in car technology it's said to be working on. And it might want to use facial recognition and depth-sensing technologies to help provide drivers with more information on the road.

In the face-detection patent Apple now owns, it hints that an Apple Car integration could be possible, saying that the technology "may be used in a vehicle-mounted system for automatic detection and reading of traffic signs."

Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously signaled that augmented reality could play a critical role in his companies products in the coming years. He hasn't, however, confirmed in which products it might be offered.

Don Reisinger is a communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter who has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine and The New York Times, as well as Tom's Guide.