Apple Granted Patents on use of Facial Recognition for Autofocus and Exposure Settings

Apple has been granted two patents related to the use of Facial Recognition when capturing images.

One of them is U.S. Patent No. 8,233,789 for "Dynamic exposure metering based on face detection" and it describes a system and method of automatically changing a digital camera's exposure settings based on a subject's face."

The other is U.S. Patent No. 8,233,078 for "Auto focus speed enhancement using object recognition and resolution" uses similar object-detection software to hasten focus speed."

It is well known that major camera manufacturers have been including Facial Recognition technology to enhance Autofocus and Exposure for a long time now, with a number of products on the market for years before the applications for these patents were filed.
You'll also find that a number of patents were filed in the 1990s for the use of Facial Recognition to get better photos (years before these two Apple patents were filed). One example is Patent No. 5,629,752 filed by Fuji on a technique to use facial recognition to insure optimal exposure of faces in a scene (and you'll find other patents using similar techniques).

Not only have patents been granted in the past to improve exposure of faces in a scene, you will also find a number of patents for improving autofocus using facial recognition techniques, submitted long before Apple filed the applications for the two patents this article is covering.

Bottom line: Digital Camera manufacturers have been using sophisticated facial recognition algorithms for years in order to optimize focus and exposure.

So, what does the grant of these patents to Apple really mean? Is in indicative of a broken patent system?

Some judges think so. For example, earlier this month, Richard Posner, a judge sitting on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago (and presiding over patent litigation between Apple and Motorola) told Reuters that the technology industry's high profits and volatility made patent litigation attractive for companies looking to wound competitors. See this article for more details.

As time passes, more and more people believe that the U.S. Patent System is serving to stifle innovation because patent holders with deep pockets and virtually unlimited legal resources can make it difficult for innovative companies without similar resources to produce products that benefit consumers without concerns about lawsuits over patents (even when the techniques being used are an obvious evolution of technology, versus innovative techniques deserving of patent protection) .

(via Apple Insider)