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How can Apple take the already excellent iPhone camera to the next level? How about being able to refocus images after you’ve taken them, just like the Lytro camera.

Apple has just received a patent for its own spin on Lytro’s light field camera technology, AppleInsider reports, which it could eventually bring to a variety of gadgets, including the iPhone.

While it’s no guarantee we’ll actually see the technology implemented in the iPhone, it puts Apple in a position to popularize refocusable images, or the ability to choose exactly what an image is focusing on after being shot. Lytro made headlines for introducing the world to the technology over two years ago, but its $300 cameras are expensive and a bit awkward for general consumers.

We’ve known Apple has been interested in the technology for some time. Last year’s biographies noted a meeting between Steve Jobs and Lytro CEO Ren Ng, who stopped by Jobs’ house to show off the Lytro camera’s technology.

With U.S. Patent No. 8,593,564, Apple has developed a way to get refocusable images with a movable adapter, which should make its camera technology slimmer than Lytro’s long and boxy camera. The patent describes a high-resolution non-refocusable mode (which would let you take standard photos) and a lower-resolution refocusable mode. The main innovation here is the combination of a full resolution shooter along with a refocusable option.

While it’s an intriguing patent, we likely won’t see this technology in something like the iPhone for a while. Apple wouldn’t dare add anything to the iPhone that would mess with its thin profile, and there isn’t much of a consumer demand for refocusable images.


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