2019 iPad could sport revolutionary 3D scanning tech

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LEGO AR Studio
Apple's adding its laser-scanning tech to the next iPad.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple is all-in on augmented reality. This requires sensing the objects around the computer and user, which is why Apple reportedly intends to build its new “Time of Flight” laser scanning technology into the back of the next iPad.

The 2018 iPad Pro isn’t even out yet and there’s already a possible reason to wait on its replacement .

Face ID versus Time of Flight

Every computer with Face ID has Apple’s TrueDepth 3D-sensing technology. This uses infrared and works better for scanning nearby objects, such as the face of someone holding an iPhone. By contrast, the Time of Flight (ToF) system scans a laser over the environment and uses the time it takes the light to bounce back to calculate the distance to nearby objects.

Think of it this way: a TrueDepth camera can detect that one person’s nose is slightly larger than their brother’s, while ToF can find a table that’s 5 feet, 2 inches away.

Augmented reality superimposes images on the real world. It’s different from virtual reality, which replaces the real world with a simulation. Because AR involves placing virtual objects onto real-world ones, it’s important to know exactly where those real-world objects are. That’s apparently where ToF scanning is going to come in handy.

This technology has uses beyond AR games like Pokémon GO. Kuo’s note said, “We believe that 3D modeling captured by ToF and then edited by an Apple Pencil on an iPad will create an all-new productivity experience for design applications in a totally different manner from computers.”

Coming to iPad first

Ming-Chi Kuo from TF International Securities sent a note to investors this morning predicting that Apple’s ToF tech would debut first in the next iOS tablet. It won’t eppear in an iPhone for another two years. This would seem to indicate Apple sees tablets as a better venue for AR.

The analyst says that the next iPad with ToF will be out in the fourth quarter of 2019 or near the beginning of 2020. The last several generations of Apple slates have been spaced about 18 months apart, making 2020 more likely.

None of this should be taken to mean that Apple is abandoning Face ID and TrueDepth. The company is actually expected to bring improvements  to its TrueDepth system in next year’s iPhone.

Source: Business Insider