Next iPhone could take better shots with automatic scene recognition fueled by AI

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Scene modes that help users capture better shots without the technical know-how have long been part of the consumer camera. Now, new details suggest a form of automatic scene detection could be coming to the next iPhone. Digging into a HomePod firmware leak, one developer suggests the same artificial intelligence technology that organizes the Camera Roll is stepping up to real-time performance to help the camera choose the best settings. The iOS automatic scene mode or SmartCam was uncovered earlier this week.

According to Apple Insider, the code includes data for recognizing several specific scenes, including babies and pets, as well as sports, fireworks, and specific landscapes such as snow or a sunset. The same report suggests that the new Smart Cam automatic scene modes will recognize the same things that existing iPhones already tag to sort existing photos — the difference being that with real-time identification, the camera could use that data to take better photos in the first place.

Since the feature was uncovered through a firmware leak and not confirmed by Apple, it’s unclear just when — or even if — the feature will arrive. With Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference not offering a single mention of such a feature, speculation is that the feature will be exclusive to the next iPhone and not one that is available with an update to iOS 11.

The idea of allowing the camera to choose the scene mode isn’t completely new. Several dedicated cameras have similar features — Sony calls it Intelligent Auto Mode, Canon has Scene Intelligent Auto Mode, and Nikon dubs it Easy Auto or Auto Scene Selector. For Panasonic, its Intelligent Auto, Fujifilm calls it Scene Recognition Auto and Olympus has iAuto. Using different sensors, the camera determines factors like whether or not a face is in the scene or if there is motion, then chooses the scene mode automatically. Instead of flipping through the scene modes, the camera chooses the option. One startup even aims to use AI to bring smarter auto settings to DSLRs.

If the feature does in fact come with the next iPhone, the option would make the native camera app better at adjusting the settings to accommodate for different scenes, since the iPhone, unlike a dedicated camera, doesn’t include scene modes (at least not without a third party app). As just a bit of code, users will have to consider the iOS automatic scene mode SmartCam, along with the growing list of iPhone 8 rumors for now.

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