Apple filing hints at exciting new iPhone 8 features never before seen on an Apple device

While a majority of Apple's patent filings are little more than a glimpse into the minds of the company's designers, they occasionally give us an early look at a new feature or improvement coming to the MacBook, iPhone or iPad. That might be the case this week as a newly awarded patent appears to hint at a feature of the upcoming iPhone 8 that has appeared repeatedly in reports from analysts and insiders.

First discovered by AppleInsider, Apple's patent for "Enhanced face detection using depth information" details a new method for face detection that allows a camera to capture a depth map of a scene and detect human faces within that scene. Once a face is detected (or multiple faces), a window is defined for each face and scaled accordingly based on where the window appears in the depth map.

As AppleInsider notes, this technology come from PrimeSense: the company behind the technology that powered the original Kinect. PrimeSense was subsequently acquired by Apple back in 2013.

Last month, KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a report to investors that the iPhone 8 (or whatever Apple ends up calling the OLED iPhone) would feature a "revolutionary" front-facing camera and infrared module capable of sensing 3D space. If Tim Cook truly believes that augmented reality is a "core technology," as he claimed in an interview last month, this kind of innovation will be key to making it possible on the iPhone.

More From BGR

Furthermore, as CNBC points out, a line from the patent states that the methods "may be used in a vehicle-mounted system for automatic detection and reading of traffic signs," which could be a hint at a key feature of the Apple car, or at the very least a future addition to Apple's vehicle software suite.