A newly published Apple patent application offers a glimpse at an improved version of the dot projector that is currently used to power the Face ID authentication system. As its name would suggest, the dot projector is able to project up to 30,000 dots of light onto a surface in a near-field range, which in turn allows the device to complete a facial recognition scan.
The new patent would supplement that near-field projection with far-field capabilities. The projector would automatically determine whether to project at a near or far-field distance depending on what the device is being asked to do. However, the patent does not specify exactly how much distance is covered under the far-field designation.
The far-field projection is accomplished with focused beams that form a structured light pattern on the desired surface, before using a second set of emitters to provide flood illumination to fill in the remaining area. The microlenses could also be decentered from the VCSELs to help steer those beams of light.
As with most patents, there is no guarantee that the new dot projector will ever be deployed in an Apple device. The patent was filed in the first quarter of 2020.
The US Patent and Trademark Office has published several other Face ID patents in the past few months. One would potentially upgrade Face ID with vein biometrics, while another would bring Face ID to MacBook and iMac computers.
Source: Patently Apple