Front-facing video camera spotted in Apple patent application

MacRumors unearthed two patent applications filed by Apple in the past couple of weeks that indicate the company is researching motion-aware interfaces for the iPhone.It works like this, the iPhone would be able to detect when you're moving (via GPS or the built-in accelerometers) and adapt the interface accordingly.

MacRumors unearthed two patent applications filed by Apple in the past couple of weeks that indicate the company is researching motion-aware interfaces for the iPhone.

It works like this, the iPhone would be able to detect when you're moving (via GPS or the built-in accelerometers) and adapt the interface accordingly. If implemented, your iPhone would know when you're in motion and could enlarge the size of on-screen controls so that they're easier to see and to tap.

Given the government's new found propensity for technology, what happens if states require that Apple disable the screen completely while in motion to prevent users from operating their iPhones while driving? I admit that it's a bit draconian, but it could happen.

What's more interesting, however is item #180 in the diagram above from Apple's patent application 20090100384 titled "VARIABLE DEVICE GRAPHICAL USER INTERFACE." A MacRumors forum member notes that #180 is a front-facing video camera. The patent text reads:

The mobile device 100 can also include a camera lens and sensor 180. In some implementations, the camera lens and sensor 180 can be located on the back surface of the mobile device 100. The camera can capture still images and/or video.

A forward-facing video camera would be incredibly useful on the iPhone and would open the device to an entirely new world of video-based communications. Imagine being able to video chat in iChat from your iPhone, like you can now with the desktop version of iChat. I'm sure that Skype for iPhone could be revved to handle video calls like it currently does on the desktop. Live video streaming is currently available from the iPhone's rear-facing camera with Qik but it requires jailbreaking.

As with anything on a mobile phone the issue will come down to bandwidth, specifically latency. You'll undoubtedly need 3G or Wi-Fi to be able to send and received live video, but will AT&T allow it on their already-saturated network? Will they charge extra for the service? Good questions indeed.