Lucid wants your next dual-camera phone to see more like a human

A company that once made eyes for Westworld-like robots adapted its depth-sensing software to work on dual-rear camera phones.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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Patrick Holland
3 min read

Dual-rear cameras could get more powerful by using depth-sensing software originally designed for robots.

Josh Miller/CNET

Cameras have become one of the most important features on our phones . In phones' early days, cameras were an afterthought -- the original iPhone didn't even record video. But now phone cameras can record 4K video, slow-mo and shoot beautiful portrait photos with artistically blurred backgrounds (bokeh).

Phone makers have largely improved phone photography in two ways. The first was to add more cameras. The iPhone X, Galaxy S9 Plus, LG G7 , OnePlus 6 and nearly all other flagship phones have dual rear cameras. The Huawei P20 Pro takes things up a notch with three rear cameras.

The second way was with AI. Google uses AI for its HDR+ mode to determine the best exposure for a particular scene.

Watch this: All of your Red Hydrogen One phone questions answered

Lucid, co-founded by Adam Rowell and Han Jin, wants to take things a step further and meld the advances in dual-camera hardware with the processing progeny from AI to help your phone see more like a human. The company's stereoscopic 3D Fusion Technology was originally created to power eye-cameras for robots .

"He [Rowell] wanted to mimic human eyes through technology," said Jin, chief executive officer of Lucid. "Imagine if devices could have the same capabilities as humans -- what could they do for us?"

But in 2015, Lucid scraped the robot eyes and focused on adapting its software to work in a consumer-friendly VR180 camera called LucidCam. In 2018, the company partnered with Red the maker of high end cinema cameras to design an 8K 3D camera that will be released later this year. The Red camera is an example of how Lucid's 3D special sauce software can be scaled up to power dual-4K image capture and processing. The Red 8K 3D camera is also notable because it will use Red's much-hyped holographic phone, the Hydrogen One, as a live 3D monitor for capturing footage.


Dual rear cameras using Lucid's vision profile would let you get your exact clothing size and fit using your phone's camera.

Josh Miller/CNET

Lucid's 3D Fusion Technology software uses a combination of machine learning, AI and historical data to allow a phone to gather depth information and apply it to a function or an app. Your portrait mode photos would look better because the camera would have better depth information to create the bokeh.

But the usefulness of Lucid's 3D Fusion Technology goes beyond just taking photos and videos. For example, a single camera on a phone can detect a face. But a dual-camera powered with Lucid's software can identity a specific face. This enables a phone to "scan" your face and securely lock and unlock your phone even for mobile payments. The only phone that's currently secure enough for this is the iPhone Xwhich uses a depth sensor. Lucid's 3D Fusion Technology could allow other phone makers to adopt truly secure face identification at a much lower price and without the need for special sensors.

Another use would be motion tracking. You could control your phone without touching the screen. Just move your hand through the air.

Jin says that Lucid has already started working with phone, camera and drone makers to bring its technology to future devices. He says we should see a phone using Lucid's tech in the coming months.

As far as those robot eyes Lucid was working on? Well, now the only robots Rowell and Jin are interested at the moment are the ones on Westworld.

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