Apple, king of prospective patenting, is at it again, this time with filings for tech which could automatically distribute group snaps amongst the people in them.
Using facial recognition software, the patent, filed in February 2014 but published this week, covers how Apple might offer different methods of sharing with those in the photos, such as email and SMS, as well as options for associating more info with particular faces.
The potential for such functionality has already been proven by Facebook’s Moments app, but putting it into the next iPhone handset might pave the way for a move away from social networking in the way we know it now: if your snaps are sent straight to everyone in them without any further input (provided you’ve enabled auto-upload), why share them again online?
Sharing is caring
Where things might get really interesting is the prospect of conditional or bespokely programmable sharing options for particular faces and their corresponding contacts. Does your mum like to have photos emailed to her during the week so she can check them at work, but likes iMessages at the weekend? The algorithm could well be programmed to achieve that.
Of course, with instantaneous personal media management based on faces, issues of privacy are unlikely to be far away. The patent details that “the contact information associated with the pre-trained facial recognition data can be used to share the newly captured photo with known users” and goes onto to discuss possible push and cloud server options.
However, the Cupertino corporation might have a tough job on its hands convincing consumers to cooperate, not least because it isn’t hard to imagine situations where you might snap a photo forgetting it’s going to be sent to everyone in it. Certainly, it might mean less lending of your iPad to your gran.
Nevertheless, if it's well integrated, streamlined and possesses non-automatic options and an assured privacy infrastructure for syncing and sharing, Apple’s patent might just be a stroke of genius: if all your mates are auto-sharing their snaps amongst themselves, you’re going to want in and you’ll need a slab of Apple aluminium to do so.
What’s more, the manufacturer also filed in February a patent detailing something which might utilise the same sharing architecture: no data or WiFi but want to backup your photos? The next iPhone might just let you transfer locally to your friends’ nearby phones.
It seems handsets will seek out sharing soulmates over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC, presumably having been pre-paired, and make copies of your photos until you can access iCloud.
Again, there will be concerns about privacy. How long will the pics last on your mates’ phones? Will they be able to see them? What if all of your phones are nicked? The patent states that data will expire after a time period, giving one week as an example.
Nonetheless, the two patents together suggest Apple is at least thinking hard about ways to revolutionise digital image sharing and security, by using friends to keep your snaps safe whilst auto-sharing the ones they’re in.
It’s worth remembering, though, that we often see Apple patents which never actually appear. Whilst this photo tech might seem much more realistic than some of the future forms we see coming from the manufacturer, that’s no guarantee of it reaching fruition. But, with a rumoured September release for the next iPhone, it might not be so long until we find out.