Apple Patent Would Turn Your Friend's iPhones Into a Lighting Kit

Illustration for article titled Apple Patent Would Turn Your Friend's iPhones Into a Lighting Kit

If you've ever been on the set of a professional photography shoot, you'll notice the photographer doesn't just rely on a single camera-mounted flash. Instead, they use a series of strategically positioned flashes, all tethered together so they function as one, to precisely control where and how much light is hitting the subject. And that approach is very similar to a patent Apple originally filed back in 2011 that could dramatically improve your iPhone's photography prowess.


But instead of wirelessly connecting the phone to a series of dedicated external flashes, the patent actually sees the iPhone connecting and controlling the flashes on other nearby iPhones. So not only would it increase the amount of light available to an iPhone photographer depending on how many other phones are around, but it could also let them get more creative with their shots.

A method for capturing an image with an image capture device, such as a camera or mobile electronic device. The method includes initiating a master-slave relationship between the image capture device and at least one secondary device. Once the master-slave relationship is initiated, remotely activating one of an at least one light source of the at least one secondary device.

The patent goes one step further describing tools that automatically analyze the lighting in a sample shot, and then tweaking the intensity or timing of the flashes on the other iPhones to improve the photos. It even suggests a method of passing along instructions to people holding the other iPhones as to where they should move or stand to improve the overall lighting.

Of course, the patent doesn't necessarily mean we'll be seeing this technology included on the next iPhone—or any iPhones down the line for that matter. As with most patents it's most likely a move by Apple to control another technology or feature—whether they intend to implement it themselves one day, or go to court when another company tries to. [US Patent & Trademark Office via AppleInsider]


So I'm clueless as far as most legal issues like this go. But can someone explain to me why it wouldn't make sense to only allow companies who have actually implemented the technology used in the patent they want to file? It seems absurd that companies are allowed to hold ideas hostage so to speak even if they have no real plans of actually following through with them.