Apple is reportedly interested in the 3D camera sensor produced by its existing supplier Sony, which uses precise time-of-flight technology. Satoshi Yoshihara, general manager of Sony, said the company plans to start mass production of 3D chips next summer to meet the needs of several smartphone makers.



Bloomberg Quint reported that Satoshi Yoshihara did not provide production data and did not disclose the names of potential customers, but he pointed out that Sony's 3D chip business is making a profit. It is understood that Apple is interested in adopting this technology, but it is not clear whether this info is from Sony or other anonymous sources.

Apple's existing TrueDepth camera system uses a VCSEL (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser) to project structured light on an object. By measuring deviations and distortions in the grid, the system can generate 3D images for biometric authentication. Sony's Time-of-Flight (TOF) system renders a depth map by measuring the time it takes for a light pulse to travel to and of the target surface.

Without a doubt, TOF technology is more accurate than VCSEL and can work at greater distances. A report published earlier this year claims that Apple is evaluating whether to use TOF for rear-facing cameras to help augmented reality app for a faster, more accurate autofocus method. Though, Apple analyst Ming-Chi says the company is unlikely to integrate TOF technology into next-gen iPhones.
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