Buried amongst 15 patents granted to Apple this week by the US Patent and Trademark Office is one that describes colour correction - for a stand-alone camera. Not an iPhone camera, a compact camera.
Thing is, it's not the first time we've heard rumours of an Apple camera, with a similar patent application last July describing an Apple-branded compact camera. This particular one was first filed in 2003, making it a long seven-year wait - that's if Apple even cares. There's every chance they've long forgotten about this patent, nor even intended on launching a product in this market - with almost weekly Apple patents turning up and showing pretty crazy ideas, it's expected a lot of them are simply to throw people off the scent.
This colour-correction patent for cameras would see Apple's product detect the actual colours in the shot, rather than just the lighting conditions, from what I can gather from the patent. A diffuser would analyse the colour signals, scattering light through the sensor. The patent explains:
"The diffuser scatters the light from the scene target (420), as well as the light directly from light source 409 and the light (e.g., 425) from other sources (or light reflecting objects). The diffuser scatters the surrounding light towards the image sensing device to illuminate the image sensing device with the light of the colour of the diffuser under the current lightening condition (provided by the surrounding light coming towards the diffuser). The colour signals generated by the image sensing device for the light of the colour of the diffuser under the current lightening condition can be compared to the colour of the diffuser under the standard lightening condition (or a reference lightening condition) so that the colour cast of the light source on the image of a scene can be corrected accordingly."
This could prove interesting, in light of Apple's patent-infringing lawsuit against Kodak - and, of course, their first ever phone to use a forward-facing camera being revealed this week. [Patently Apple]