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HTC gives third-party developers control of the One (M8)'s dual camera. What would you build?

HTC did a great job with the camera tech on the HTC One (M8), but what else can be done? HTC wants you to answer that question, as they have released the initial SDK preview for the Dual Lens API for all third party developers.
April 17, 2014
htc one m8 outdoors aa dual camera(4 of 14)

When we first learned that the new HTC One (M8) was to come equipped with dual camera lenses on the back, we were intrigued. Many ideas sprung up as to what it meant and how the dual lenses would be put to use, HTC even teased us a bit with a little Ultrapixel explanation video before the official launch. In the end, HTC did a great job with the tech, the functions we now know are available are quite impressive, but what else can be done? HTC wants you to answer that question, as they have released the initial SDK preview for the Dual Lens API for all third party developers.

The HTC One (M8) flagship device packs a Snapdragon 801 chipset with 2GB of RAM, which should prove ample power to handle almost any photo or video process that developers throw at it. We’ve taken the phone for a spin or two so far, even putting the stock HTC One (M8) basic camera features to work on a quick tour of Disney. Checkout our full review of the phone here, and see what Disney had to offer in the video below.

Taking a closer look at HTC’s dual lens setup on the HTC One (M8), we see that their duo camera technology is able to mimic the human eye’s stereoscopic vision capabilities. That is, two independent lenses capture the same image from slightly different angles, the imaging system then can use the information to calculate relative distances to objects in the image and combine the two images into one to maximize image quality. In this process, the main sensor is used to capture an image, and the secondary sensory is designed to capture depth information.

With the above combined image and depth information, HTC is able to offer a handful of effects that can be configured after the fact. These same features will be available in the SDK for developers to work with to create new and amazing functionality for the HTC One (M8), and future HTC phones as well (we hope!)

Bokeh and focus fall-off with UFocus

HTC One (M8) ufocus

If you’ve been following the news today, you know that Google released their Google Camera as a standalone app in the Google Play Store. One of the key features touted in the Google Camera is the bokeh and focus fall-off effects. If you are unfamiliar with what that means, allow me to simplify it by calling it ‘selective focus’. That is, that ability to blur the background (or foreground) of an image based upon a selected object and/or its distance from the camera. In the example above, you see how HTC uses the depth information collected by their dual lenses to be able to keep the man in the foreground in focus, whilst applying a blur effect to the rest of the image. Then, with the exact same image, bring focus to the woman and the background while blurring the man in the foreground. HTC calls this UFocus.


HTC One (M8) Foreground

Using the same basic technique as for UFocus, HTC has a function called Foregrounder. Foregrounder allows you to maintain focus on a foreground object, but instead of blurring the background, you can apply different filters to create fun image effects.

Dimension Plus

One of the most intriguing functions of the HTC One (M8) camera is the Dimensions Plus functionality. For ease, let us call it 3D image viewing. With the combined depth and image information from the dual lenses, a user is able to tilt their phone from side to side and the picture on screen rotates slightly with a parallax-like effect. The result is a glasses-free 3D viewing experience.

Where might we go from here?

As it appears that HTC’s depth capturing sensor is only thus far being used to enhance images, we wonder if their sensors are good enough to compete with the amazing uses of Google’s Project Tango. Instead of focusing on the single image, Project Tango has been wowing us with the ability to create full 3D models of our environment. From there, the captured 3D environment can be used for things like augmented reality games – imagine you are standing in the hallway of your own home, you can play the part of Indiana Jones as the augmented reality converts your hallway into a dark and narrow passageway, just look out for any monstrous rolling boulders.

With the open SDK and API for the HTC One (M8)’s dual camera, we expect that developers will come up with new and fascinating ways to use the phone. Maybe you have a great idea yourself, if so, head on over to the HTC Developer Center to see how to get started.

With all of the amazing features possible using HTC One (M8)’s dual lense technology, we simply have to stop and ask, will the limitations caused by the comparatively tiny 4MP main camera sensor prevent any real development? What amazing camera feature would you create?