Will Apple Add 3D Camera to the iPhone?

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A report out of South Korea last week indicated that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and LG Innotek, a subsidiary of LG Electronics, are working on development of a 3D camera for a new iPhone. The camera could be available as soon as the second half of next year.

LG Innotek is the Korean company’s subsidiary working on developing new technology and camera modules for LG’s own mobile devices. The firm developed a dual-lens camera module for LG’s Optimus 3D smartphone in 2011, and Apple uses the LG Innotek dual-lens  camera in its new iPhone 7 Plus.

Last year Apple paid a reported $20 million for an Israel-based company, LinX Computational Imaging, that makes smartphone and tablet cameras with sensors that record depth of field information for each pixel in an image. When images from the two lenses are combined they form a 3D picture.

Combining LG Innotek’s dual-lens technology with LinX’s software could give iPhone users the ability to construct 3D images using the overlay technologies currently available in augmented reality (AR) apps like Pokémon Go.

Apple CEO Tim Cook already has come down on the side of augmented reality over virtual reality:

There’s virtual reality and there’s augmented reality — both of these are incredibly interesting. … But my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far.

The wild, if relatively short-lived, popularity of Pokémon Go may be a sign that Cook is onto something. Essentially, a 3D camera on an iPhone could enable users to create their own AR app, combining a 3D video with an overlay of, say, a photo of your dog, giving a whole new meaning to the notion of taking the dog for a walk.