It can be difficult to return to business as usual during America’s first phase of reopening with federal social distancing recommendations still in effect. But a new patent from Apple gives us a glimpse into how one bit of normalcy—group selfies—might work even when we’re all at least six feet apart.
As spotted by Patently Apple and the Verge, this week Apple secured a patent for “synthetic group selfies” so you can snag a picture together without physically being together. It sounds perfect for when you want to project the veneer of friendship for the ‘gram while still being a blanket gremlin at home.
Based on the patent application, it looks like users would be able to invite other people to take a group selfie with them, and then Apple’s software would piece their independently taken photos into a single image. This compositing process would work similarly for recorded video and live streaming images too.
Here’s a glimpse at how it might work, according to the patent application:
All users would have the option of keeping both the group selfie and the original, and they’d be able to tweak the image as they see fit with the software’s editing features. So, for example, if you felt like someone else’s selfie was stealing your spotlight, you could relegate them to the background and put yourself front and center (where you deserve to be, queen).
The patent doesn’t make it clear exactly which Apple devices would have access to this feature. It could be exclusive to iPads or iPhones or available on both. And given that it was originally filed in July 2018 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, I have a hunch that Apple didn’t have the ongoing coronavirus pandemic or social distancing in mind while first developing this feature. Unless...Apple’s execs know something we don’t. In which case, I ask but two questions of their prophetic wisdom: When does 2020 end, and is it any time soon?
As always, keep in mind that this is only a patent—as in, an innovation Apple’s tinkering with that could never end up materializing into a finished product. So there’s no telling whether synthetic group selfies will ever actually be a thing.