iPhone 6 display 'to have 3D mapping sonar'

Could mysterious Apple patents point to augmented reality features in iPhone 6?

Recent Apple patent activity raises hopes of sonar and audio-detecting screen in the Apple iPhone 6.

Another day, another round of iPhone 6 speculation. Today we're wondering if recent Apple patents point to upgraded features in the iPhone 6's screen - potentially including the ability to listen to and map out the world around it using microphone diaphragms and sonar.

Yes, that's right: the iPhone 6 could have sonar. Can you say OMG?

The humpback whale, which uses sonar, just like an iPhone 6. Possibly. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

iPhone 6 rumour: audio-detecting screen

Yesterday the US patent office published an application from Apple that covered the integration of audio sensors into its displays. This could apply to any and all Apple screens, of course, but a portable device could benefit from incorporating such elements into the screen and thus slimming down elsewhere as well as in other ways, as we'll outline further in due course.

In the meantime, Patently Apple has more details of the audio detection technology that we think could pop up in the iPhone 6. The site explains:

"In one embodiment, Apple's invention may take on the form of an audio detection system having a display assembly. The display assembly may include a screen and at least one electromagnetic energy emitter configured to direct energy at an inside surface of the screen.

"The described invention states that at least one sensor could be configured to sense the emitted energy after it is reflected from the inside surface of the screen and generate electrical signals corresponding the sensed reflected energy."

An iPhone 6 that can pick up sounds through its display is a neat idea and could help Apple to trim down the chassis just a little more. But things get a bit more exciting when you chuck sonar into the mix.

Alleged photos of the Apple iPhone 6, according to an early rumour

iPhone 6 rumour: sonar proximity detector

Back in October, Apple patented a method of using sonar for the purposes of proximity detection (switching off touchscreen functions when the phone is near your face, for example), reasoning that this function could extend to other features such as drop-detection.

Some ruggedised portable hard drives use drop detection to withdraw the spindles from their discs when they fall and avoid damaging the memory, but the iPhone is flash-memory based and has no similar options. So unless Apple also wants to come up with an integrated airbag or instant-hardening case we're not sure that drop-detection is the key here.

Instead, we think sonar could (and could is the important word here) be used for real-time 3D mapping, helping the iPhone 6 to model the world around it far quicker and more accurately than its cameras alone. The potential for sonar-equipped augmented reality apps is enormous, limited only really by the imaginations of developers.

But imagine a phone that could detect when a large object is approaching rapidly, for example, and interrupt your music with a warning to step out of the way of that bus. Or the ability to model the world around you in the dark and present a lit-up view on your screen. Or an app for blind and partially sighted users that would issue precise walking directions to navigate them through unfamiliar areas. Or a handy personal sonar unit for submarine captains whose vessels are having technical difficulties.

See also:

iPhone 6 release date, rumours and leaked images

iPhone 6 release date rumour

Cheaper iPhone mini, release date, rumours and leaked images

Follow David Price on Twitter

For more information about Apple iOS devices and software, why not download the iPad & iPhone User Newsstand app? It's free and includes a free full issue of the magazine.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags iPadsmartphonestabletsAppleiPhonehardware systemsconsumer electronics

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

David Price

Macworld U.K.
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?