I know, I know...yet another iPhone 8 rumor. After all the speculation, rumors, even more rumors, dummy units, and cases, Apple might as well just go ahead and reveal the new phone. Alas, here we are with more rumors that are probably true as we get closer to the actual reveal. According to Fast Company, Apple is working to include a rear-facing 3D laser system in the new iPhones:
"The source said the VSCEL laser system is probably intended for the 10th anniversary iPhone (which may be called the iPhone 8 or the iPhone Pro or, hopefully, the iPhone X). Whether the sensor will be included in that phone, or a 2018 iPhone, depends on the progress the Apple engineers make in integrating the laser system into the phone, our source says."
During Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June, Apple unveiled ARKit, a new platform for developing augmented reality applications for iOS devices. According to Apple, ARKit uses "Visual Inertial Odometry" (VIO) to accurately track the world around it. This allows iOS devices to sense how they move within a room by analyzing the scene presented by the camera and finding horizontal planes in the room as well as estimate the total amount of light available in a scene to apply the correct amount of lighting to virtual objects.
While the existing implementation of ARKit on current iOS devices is impressive, this new 3D laser system would allow higher depth perception for AR applications in addition to highly accurate autofocus similar to other implementations by LG, Huawei, OnePlus, and Google. Fast Company goes on to explain that, "VCSEL laser systems calculate the distance the light travels from the laser to the target and back to the sensor, and generate a Time of Flight (TOF) measurement."
Of course, Apple isn't the first to try to implement 3D sensing technology into a smartphone. Google has long since experimented with AR with Project Tango. Last year, Google partnered with Lenovo to release the first Project Tango smartphone, the Phab 2 Pro. Still, Apple is known for taking existing technology and refining it for their products and driving mass adoption. We'll have to wait to see what Apple unveils this fall.