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This iPhone 8 Feature Will Change Everything

The big changes Apple has planned for the iPhone 8 look like they're coming to the phone's camera, too. Several reports say that Apple is working on building 3D camera technology into its next smartphone.

Credit: iPhone 8 Concept by Matteo Gentile

(Image credit: iPhone 8 Concept by Matteo Gentile)

While it's not immediately clear how the technology will work, such a camera would likely be the foundation technology needed to boost the iPhone 8's augmented reality capabilities.

A recent report in Business Insider said a 3D component in the iPhone 8's camera would allow the device to interpret distance. That, in turn, would help the phone determine where to overlay virtual elements on your real world view. As an example, a virtual image hanging from a real tree should look like it's attached to a branch, instead of looking too close or too far way.

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For its part, Apple has made no secret that it has big plans for augmented reality. CEO Tim Cook has said AR could be the next big thing, while other reports have claimed an Apple facility in Israel is solely dedicated to getting augmented reality into the next iPhone.

According to rumors swirling about the iPhone 8, Apple is planning major changes to its next smartphone — at least to one of the models it plans to release later this year. Rumored features include a curved OLED screen replacing the flat LCD panels used by Apple in the past, an all-glass design, wireless charging and the removal of the home button.

But it's the addition of a so-called 3D Camera that might prove most impactful, some analysts say. Steven Milunovich at UBS told investors recently that augmented reality that could be delivered through the 3D camera could "reinvigorate the iPhone/iPad," according to Business Insider.

Exactly how far Apple will go with AR is unknown. Milunovich says Apple could start with facial recognition and "basic AR experiences" this year, and then boost its AR efforts as time goes on. Within five years, he says Apple could offer a standalone AR device.

Ming-Chi Kuo, another Apple analyst, recently told investors that Apple could bundle its 3D Camera on the front of the device, allowing it to be used for biometric support and as a way to take a "3D selfie." The technology might also make its way to other Apple hardware as time goes on, he says.

Of course, only folks within the Cupertino, Calif.-based company's headquarters really know what's in the works. And for now, Apple isn't saying what it has planned. Look for more details on Apple's AR plans later this year.

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.