Why the Amazon Smartphone Might Need 6 Cameras, Part Two

While thesencogi eye tracking Amazon smartphone is now expected to arrive some time this year (June-ish), rumors have been circulating for some time now that it might have unusual specs. The Wall Street Journal, industry analysts, and unnamed sources have all said that the Amazon marathoner would have this feature or that feature, but which one is right?

That I cannot answer, but what I can do is examine each rumor and show you enough related information that you can make a decision.

In part one of this series I looked at an industry analyst's speculation that the Amazon smartphone would have 6 cameras and use 4 of them for gesture recognition. In this post I plan to discuss a WSJ rumor that the 6 cameras would be used for a different purpose, and in part 3 I will cover whatever rumor makes an appearance next.

Update: Here is part three of this series.

Update: Leaked photos show the 4 front-facing cameras in an early Amazon smartphone prototype.

A few days ago the Wall Street Journal reported:

The people said Amazon hopes to distinguish its phone in a crowded market with a screen capable of displaying seemingly three-dimensional images without special glasses, these people said. They said the phone would employ retina-tracking technology embedded in four front-facing cameras, or sensors, to make some images appear to be 3-D, similar to a hologram, the people said.

Eyeball tracking is a well-developed technology which is closely related to the gesture recognition tech mentioned in part one. Commercial solutions are available from a number of companies, and I also found one proof of concept project that used commonly available tech like webcams to track a user's eyes. That project sacrificed quality for cheapness, but it does show us how little hardware is actually required.

Very few of the projects and products I found were mobile; most were tied into a desktop PC, and some even required goggles of some kind. Other products were based on easy to install sensor accessories, and there were even a couple products based on a smartphone.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy S4 launched last year with this feature:

On a related note, according to Samsung the S4 also had an IR sensor for simple gesture recognition.

While there is some dispute whether Samsung is tracking a user's eye or their face, there are at least two other companies showing off similar tech that requires little more than the tech already built into the Galaxy S4 smartphone.

The first company, Sencogi, demoed a software solution last year. This literally requires no additional hardware than the S4:

The other company, The Eye Tribe, had to add a dongle to the Galaxy Note II in order for their tech to work. It's not clear to me exactly what sensors are in the dongle, but as you can see it is quite tiny:

So far as I can tell, none of the current eye tracking tech requires 4 cameras, and some require just the hardware on a high end smartphone. With that in mind, it's not clear why Amazon would need 4 cameras on their smartphone - especially when neither of the competing products require them.

It is worth noting that neither company is promising features similar to the WSJ rumor, which boasted a screen that "make some images appear to be 3-D, similar to a hologram". So it is possible that Amazon's trick is more complicated and thus requires more cameras.

We'll just have to wait and see. I fully expect more details to leak in the coming months, and chances are the rumors will either confirm or deny the rumors discussed above.

About Nate Hoffelder (11481 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

4 Comments on Why the Amazon Smartphone Might Need 6 Cameras, Part Two

  1. Something that occurred to me: what if the additional cameras are necessary for doing everything simultaneously? One low-res camera is optimized for face tracking, another low-res for eye tracking, one low-res for gesture tracking, a regular front-facing camera for video calls, a regular camera on the back, and another camera on the back for Lytro-/HTC M8-style post-capture focusing?

    • I don’t think you would need a different camera for each task. The data from a single camera could be copied and fed into several different processes, each with a different task. That would take a lot of processing power and RAM, but not multiple cameras.

  2. I think it needs this many camera or proximity sensors because Neonodes 3D technology and gaming technology are a big part of the device and marketing. look at these videos.

4 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Why the Kindle Smartphone Doesn't Need 6 Cameras, Part Three - The Digital Reader
  2. Why the Kindle Smartphone Might Need 6 Cameras, Part One - The Digital Reader
  3. Why the Kindle Smartphone Might Need 6 Cameras, Part Three - The Digital Reader
  4. Leaked Image Shows the Amazon Smartphone, Doesn't Show the 4 IR Cameras - The Digital Reader

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