Apple patent will let you take group selfies even when far apart

Social or physical distancing, while not an assurance, is one of the simplest ways to keep the COVID-19 coronavirus from spreading. It isn’t, however, one of the easiest as people have realized after months or even just weeks of being deprived of close social interactions. That’s one of the reasons why video chat platforms are on the rise but that doesn’t solve one important social activity, taking group selfies. Fortunately, Apple apparently has an idea on how to solve that though it remains to be seen if it actually has any plans to.

Smartphone cameras have become quite impressive and that is true even for front-facing ones, albeit at a slower and smaller pace. Those developments are for naught, however, when even the widest-angle selfie camera can’t cover you and your friend even just a few meters away, let alone a block or city away. As always, software comes to the rescue to do what hardware sometimes can’t.

Apple’s latest patent, which was actually filed two years ago before this pandemic happened, talks about the idea of doing “synthetic group selfies”. It suggests doing in real-time what some people have been doing for years: editing photos to insert themselves into a group or scene.

As with any patent, the technical details are slim but the idea is that it will function almost like a cross between a selfie app and a video conferencing app but, instead of showing everyone in a grid, it will compose them into the shot. More than that, however, users can individually “reframe” the shot after the fact or even put themselves forward at the center of the photo.

And as with any patent, there’s no assurance Apple will actually take the time to implement the feature, though it would be a timely and popular addition to its FaceTime platform if it did. It’s the type of computer vision and image processing that Google will probably be able to pull off but now can’t unless they will risk getting sued for it.

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