Apple has developed a new system that automatically shares images with friends that are recognized within them, a new patent application reveals. The system works in much the same way as Facebook’s new Moments app, and it makes sharing photos with friends and loved ones much simpler.
In its patent, entitled “Systems and methods for sending digital images,” Apple describes how it could use facial recognition to establish the people in your images on iOS, then automatically make those images available to them via email, iMessage, or other methods.
Apple explains how faces could be matched with email addresses and phone numbers pulled from the Contacts app. Users can also assign data manually to faces that aren’t recognized.
“In some embodiments, recognized faces are enclosed in a box or otherwise highlighted and presented alongside icons indicating possible forms of communication,” explains Apple Insider. “Users can interact with the UI to select who in the photo will receive a digital copy and how that copy is sent.”
Users may also be able to assign a default method of sending — such as email — to have images shared automatically in future.
Apple also describes how users could opt-in to automatically receive photos in which they are identified, in the same way photos in which you are tagged on Facebook appear in your photo library. Users may be able to specify who images should be shared with, and who shouldn’t receive them.
Apple explains how its algorithm could learn new faces over time, then retroactively tag people in old photos. Users’ databases could also be synced via the cloud, so that it’s accessible to all of their Macs and iOS devices.
Apple already has a facial recognition feature built into its Photos app on Mac — and iPhoto before that — but it doesn’t yet have the ability to link detected faces to contacts, or share them automatically with those who are tagged in them.
It will be interesting to see whether this patent is approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office if Facebook is already using a very similar system, and as always, there’s no guarantee that this system will ever make its way into Apple products.