Northlight Images, one of the best curators of interesting Canon patents, uncovered two new patent applications that suggest that Canon is getting very, very tactical in its designs for user-eye tracking selection.

A few weeks ago, Canon pre-announced its R3 semi-flagship camera body that will come out and bragged about a user-eye autofocus point selection feature – not to be confused with eye AF, which is where the camera focuses on available subject eyes.  With user-eye point selection, the user’s eye is employed to determine what the photographer is looking at, and presumably the point on which she wants the camera to focus.

Canon employed a very early DSLR version of this technology in the 1998 model 3 film camera. Incidentally, this caused some to be confused as to whether the R3’s name was an homage to that earlier camera, or an indication that it was not going to truly be a flagship camera, which traditionally get the 1 designation. This idea, as expected, was both encouraged and disabused by different parts of Canon. We can likely expect marketing people to call this a flagship camera, and the CPS people who have to deal with prickly photographers with their prickly opinions to hedge and call it the “flagship mirrorless” camera. 

In any case, Canon is getting so tactical in its patents on this user-eye point selection feature that the images in the patent application show where the settings for the feature will sit within the Canon menu system. (For those curious, it appears Canon plans to ensconce that feature in the camera menu on tab 4, where the relatively obscure settings for noise reduction and dust delete data currently sit.)

The settings shown indicate that there will be the ability to set the behaviors differently for continuous AF modes versus single-shot AF. There seems also to be a distinction as to the “line-of-sight” feature determining the AF point versus it having “input” into the AF point selection. There also appears to be a feature that will show a box indicating where the camera thinks you are looking.

The second patent shows the calibration process, enabling different people with different morphological characteristics and different circumstances (e.g., wearing glasses) to teach the camera how to interpret their pupil movements.

Very interestingly, the calibration appears to involve the user’s ability to confirm proper registration at different luminences, which may imply an area where the technology has had difficulty in previous testing.