Group self portraits are a great way of capturing memories with friends at events or while traveling. However, they’re notoriously difficult to take. It tends to be near impossible to get everyone together to pose for the shot and then there´s always someone in the group who don’t like their expression in the photo and want it retaken or even deleted.
Apple is now tackling this problem with technology. In a recent patent application titled ‘Generating Synthetic Group Selfies’ the company describes a system in which several mobile devices are used to capture self portraits of each user individually. This allows everyone to get the perfect shot of themselves in their own time.
The process is started by one user sending out invitations to the rest of the group. Everyone then captures their selfie and sends it to the first user’s device. Invited users have the possibility to reject participation. The app could also be setup to limit participants to persons within a certain geographical distance to the originator. This way only people at a specific event at that time will be able to appear in the shot.
Computational imaging methods are then used to cut out the subjects in all images and arranged in one shot in a way that resembles a real group shot, with heads staggered in rows to fit subjects at the back into the gap between the to faces in front of them. The final layout will be be optimized for the number of people in the shot and the scaling of the image.
Once all subjects have been arranged, a background is added to the image. This could be the background of the initiator’s selfie shot or a completely different photograph. Of course the final result can be saved and shared via all usual methods.
The final synthetic group portrait can also be stored as a collection of self portraits, along with the background image, and data on positioning of each person within the group shot. This allows for manual reordering of faces by each participant to their own liking.
As usual there is now way of knowing if we will ever see the system operational on a smartphone or other mobile device. However, all the technologies to create the described system in the form of a mobile app should already be at Apple’s disposal today.