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Apple iPhone 12 could feature AI-boosted mist-penetrating infrared cameras

Apple has snapped up a start-up company which uses infrared imaging and machine learning to create crisper, and more lifelike photos. 

UK-based Spectral Edge has focussed on improving white balancing on cameras, as well as combining infrared photographs with standard photos.

Though Spectral Edge’s site is now offline, back in 2016 the company’s managing director Christopher Cytera told Tech Crunch that using infrared images was key to taking better photos in misty and foggy conditions:

“It’s bringing extra detail into the picture that you can’t necessarily see with a normal camera, because infrared penetrates through mist and fog much better than visible light,” said Cytera.

“And so when you have a picture with a little bit of mist, little bit of fog you get a much more stunning effect.”

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In recent years, the camera arms race on phones has focussed mainly on using low light sensors and machine learning to improve night shots, with many phones, including this year’s Nokia 9 PureView, Huawei P30, and Apple’s own iPhone 11 Pro, featuring multiple lenses and sensors.

Apple’s cameras are already enhanced with machine learning processes, like Deep Fusion, which takes an underexposed photo and blends it with three neutral photos, and long, high-exposure picture, with the software mixing those, and deciding on a per-pixel level, how each object in the photo – hair, skin, leaves, clouds, and so on – are treated. It’s likely that Spectral Edge’s technology will give this AI secret sauce even more of a kick.

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The company has been acquired by the Apple for an undisclosed sum – as Bloomberg points out, Apple corporate lawyer Peter Ronald Denwood is now a director of Spectral Edge Ltd, and the Cupertino giant now fully controls the Cambridge start-up; Christopher Cytera, along with CEO Rhodri Thomas and other persons of significant control, have now been let go as directors.

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