It can be difficult to return to business as usual during America’s
first phase of reopening with federal social distancing recommendations
still in effect. But a new patent from Apple gives us a glimpse into how
one bit of normalcy — group selfies — might work even when we’re all at
least six feet apart.
As spotted by Patently Apple and the
Verge, this week Apple secured a patent for “synthetic group selfies” so
you can snag a picture together without physically being together. It
sounds perfect for when you want to project the veneer of friendship for
the ‘gram while still being a blanket gremlin at home.
the patent application, it looks like users would be able to invite
other people to take a group selfie with them, and then Apple’s software
would piece their independently taken photos into a single image. This
compositing process would work similarly for recorded video and live
streaming images too.
Here’s a glimpse at how it might work, according to the patent application:
users would have the option of keeping both the group selfie and the
original, and they’d be able to tweak the image as they see fit with the
software’s editing features. So, for example, if you felt like someone
else’s selfie was stealing your spotlight, you could relegate them to
the background and put yourself front and centre (where you deserve to
The patent doesn’t make it clear exactly which Apple
devices would have access to this feature. It could be exclusive to
iPads or iPhones or available on both. And given that it was originally
filed in July 2018 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, I have a
hunch that Apple didn’t have the ongoing coronavirus pandemic or social
distancing in mind while first developing this feature. Unless…Apple’s
execs know something we don’t. In which case, I ask but two questions of
their prophetic wisdom: When does 2020 end, and is it any time soon?
always, keep in mind that this is only a patent — as in, an innovation
Apple’s tinkering with that could never end up materialising into a
finished product. So there’s no telling whether synthetic group selfies
will ever actually be a thing.