Today, Apple's latest iPhones can scan your face. But next year, they might be able to scan the world around you.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's GuideApple is reportedly hoping to deliver a long-range 3D camera system in a future iPhone by 2020 at the earliest, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu. While the company's current Face ID system works at a distance of around 25 to 50 centimeters, this next-generation technology could theoretically operate from as far as 15 feet away.
Such a breakthrough would be a massive boon for augmented reality — something Apple has embraced in recent years, especially with the development of its ARKit platform for building AR-friendly apps. However, it wouldn't be possible with the dot projection scheme Apple relies upon for its existing TrueDepth camera technology. Instead, the company will likely turn to laser scanning, the Bloomberg report notes.
With a laser-aided, 3D depth mapping system, future iPhones would be able to scan entire rooms, and more accurately represent the position and proportions of computer-generated objects in the real world. The benefits are wide reaching, with the potential to impact everything from education to gaming to shopping and beyond.
However, there's no guarantee such a camera will launch in 2020 iPhones, Bloomberg notes. Apple reportedly hoped to deliver something similar in the successors to the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR due out later this year, but ultimately decided against it for undisclosed reasons. While the upcoming models due out in the fall of 2019 will supposedly bring improvements to the Face ID system, it won't be anything on the level of laser scanning.
The story goes on to mention that Apple has also prototyped its current generation of iPhones with USB Type-C ports in place of its proprietary Lightning protocol. There have been rumblings for years that Apple was eyeing a move to the universal standard for its handsets, and those rumors picked up steam after the company introduced its latest iPad Pro with USB-C late last year.
We still don't know when Apple is planning to make the switch to USB-C, but the more we learn about the 2019 iPhones, the more it seems we could be in store for another relatively iterative upgrade from the current versions. If you were hoping for something truly revolutionary — like, say, 5G — we'd bet on 2020.