Apple laying groundwork for VR with iPhone 7

Lost in the coverage of the lack of analog headphone jack in iPhone 7 was the news that two cameras in iPhone 7 Plus will make capturing virtual reality videos possible.

Here's Ben Thompson from Stratechery explaining it in detail:

One camera uses the familiar 28mm-equivalent lens found on the iPhone 7, while the second has a 56mm-equivalent lens for superior zooming capabilities (2x optical, which also means digital zooming is viable at longer distances). Apple also demonstrated an upcoming software feature that recreates the shallow depth-of-field that is normally the province of large-sensored cameras with very fast lenses.

This effect is possible because of those two lenses; because they are millimeters apart, each lens “sees” a scene from a slightly different perspective. By comparing the two perspectives, the iPhone 7 Plus’ image processor can build a depth map that identifies which parts of the scene are in the foreground and which are in the background, and then artificially apply the bokeh that makes a shallow depth-of-field so aesthetically pleasing.

Bokeh, though, is only the tip of the iceberg: what Apple didn’t say was that they may be releasing the first mass-market virtual reality camera. The same principles that make artificial bokeh possible also go into making imagery for virtual reality headsets. Of course you probably won’t be able to use the iPhone 7 Plus camera in this way — Apple hasn’t released a headset, for one — but when and if they do, the ecosystem will already have been primed, and you can bet FaceTime VR would be an iPhone seller.

Designers at Apple

Long profile of Jon Ive in The New Yorker. The role of designers at Apple is indeed very special:

Apple’s designers have long had an influence in the company which is barely imaginable to most designers elsewhere. This power “was anointed to them by Steve, and enforced by Steve, and has become embedded culturally,” in the description of Robert Brunner, who gave Ive his first job at Apple, and ran Apple’s design group in the first half of the nineteen-nineties, before this culture took hold. Jeremy Kuempel, an engineer who interned at the company a few years ago, and has since launched a coffee-machine startup, told me that when a designer joined a meeting at Apple it was “like being in church when the priest walks in.” Now, Brunner believes, “Jony has assumed the creative soul of the company."