Apple’s latest tech acquisition gives us a hint about its future camera plans

Apple has acquired a technology startup named Spectral Edge, and in doing so, has given us a hint at what it may be working on for future versions of the iPhone’s camera. Apple is known for being secretive regarding its company acquisitions, and this only became known when Apple’s corporate lawyer was named as a director of the company, and that Apple had taken control of the firm.

What does Spectral Edge offer Apple? The company’s website is no longer accessible, but information about the firm can still be found on the website of the business park where its offices are located. It states Spectral Edge is a “cutting edge image-processing” company, which uses artificial intelligence and deep learning to enhance photos.

“We can reveal more of the color, detail, and clarity in a scene,” the blurb says, saying, “The smarter the processing the more the image reveals the richness of the moment. It is embedded real-time technology.”

In other words, Spectral Edge’s technology makes photos look brighter, more colorful, and with more detail when you take them, not after adding a filter. However, the company’s technology can be added into a device through software or hardware, according to Bloomberg, in its story revealing the acquisition.

Infrared enhancements

While this doesn’t tell us much about Apple’s future plans for the iPhone’s camera — all manufacturers are using computational photography to improve shots, after all — an interview with Spectral Edge in 2016 tells us a little more. The technique involves using data collected from multiple images along with an infrared photo to generate its final photo, because infrared can penetrate through misty, or hazy conditions more effectively than visible light.

Spectral Edge then uses its special blend of A.I. and deep learning to put it all together into a great-looking final photo. It’s likely something you won’t need to activate in the camera itself. As we have come to expect from Apple, it will “just work,” at the right time. Apple may also be able to quickly integrate the enhancements into the 2020 or 2021 iPhone. While Bloomberg’s report says the feature doesn’t need new hardware, Spectral Edge has said the camera will require an infrared sensor in the past.

Apple has been experimenting with HDR-style enhancements for some time, and Spectral Edge’s tech seems to be a continuation of this. Most iPhone owners will be familiar with Smart HDR, but in the iPhone 11 and iOS 13.2, you can also try out Apple’s Deep Fusion feature, which kicks into action automatically when conditions are right. Spectral Edge’s tech, or whatever Apple ends up calling it, may next be seen when it’s introduced as a new feature inside the iPhone 12 or iPhone 13’s camera.

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