An Apple patent first filed almost two years ago looks rather prescient today: it allows you to create virtual group selfies with family and friends while maintaining social distancing, or even while you’re each in separate locations.

And for those people who always have to be front and center in a group photo, everyone in the image can create their own version, rearranging people as they like …

Apple didn’t predict the coronavirus – the patented concept was created to deal with the everyday challenge of creating group selfies: getting everyone in the right place and then framing the shot with a good background.

While capturing an individual selfie can be accomplished easily since only the user needs to be placed within the field of view of the image capturing device, capturing a group selfie can be much more difficult since the user must arrange the user and the user’s friends within the field of view of the image capture device when capturing the group selfie. Thus, an easier mechanism for capturing a group selfie would be advantageous […]

In some implementations, a computing device can generate a synthetic group selfie. For example, a synthetic group selfie can be an arrangement or composition of individual selfies obtained from a plurality of computing devices into a single group image (e.g., synthetic group selfie). The individual selfie images can be still images, stored video images, or live streaming images. Thus, the synthetic group selfie can be a composition of still images, stored video images, or live streaming video images. The computing device can automatically arrange the individual selfies into the synthetic group selfie. The synthetic group selfie can be stored as a multi-resource object that preserves the individual selfie images so that the user who created the synthetic group selfie or a recipient of the synthetic group selfie can modify the arrangement of the individual selfies within the synthetic group selfie.

Particular implementations provide at least the following advantages. Group selfies can be easily generated without having to organize or arrange people around a camera. The processing of individual selfies to remove background portions of individual selfie images can be distributed amongst multiple devices to reduce the amount of processing required to be performed by an individual device. Individual selfies can be automatically and intelligently arranged within the synthetic group selfie so that the user is not required to arrange individual selfies within the synthetic group selfie.

So, each person takes their own selfie on their own phone; each phone removes the background; and then all the isolated images are sent to one phone to assemble the virtual group selfie with a single version of the background. Depth-sensing can be used both to do clean cutouts, and to merge properly with the background.

The phones will use AirDrop type technology to transmit the photos when everyone is in one place, but the patent does allow for doing it all remotely.

When user device and contributor device are near each other (e.g., within a threshold distance, within direct communication range, etc.), user device and contributor device may exchange data (e.g., individual selfies, background images, synthetic group selfies, etc.) using a direct peer-to-peer network. However, when user device and contributor device are not near each other, user device and contributor device may exchange data (e.g., individual selfies, background images, synthetic group selfies, etc.) using an peer-to-peer network (e.g., the Internet).

Of course, like all Apple patents, there’s no telling whether or not the idea will ever make it into our iPhones, but it would certainly be handy at present!

Via Patently Apple

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