The source said the VSCEL laser system is probably intended for the 10th anniversary iPhone (which may be called the iPhone 8 or the iPhone Pro or, hopefully, the iPhone X). Whether the sensor will be included in that phone, or a 2018 iPhone, depends on the progress the Apple engineers make in integrating the laser system into the phone, our source says.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that the front camera on the iPhone 8 could use a laser for 3D selfie effects and facial recognition; however, Fast Company says the rear of the phone is where the real action is. Currently, ARKit uses the iPhone camera to picture and measure the real world. The addition of a 3D laser system would dramatically improve these measurements, making AR more realistic.
The VCSEL laser system calculates the distance light travels from the laser to the target and back, generating a Time of Flight (TOF) measurement. The system consists of the source laser, a lens, a sensor and a processor. Sources claim the system will cost about $2 per phone.
Current iPhones use phase detection autofocus. Apple calls it 'Focus Pixels'. The laser system is much faster and more accurate. Laser beams bounce off objects and return to the sensor providing the precise depth of field for each. The camera can then focus on a desired part of the shot in milliseconds.
Lumentum is purportedly providing most of the VCSEL lasers with Finisar and II-VI as secondary suppliers. The TOF sensor is coming from STMicro, Infineon, or AMS; although, it's likely Apple will buy the whole system in module form from LG, STMicro, AMS or Foxconn.
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