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The iPhone 7's powerful camera could take virtual reality mainstream

Apple's newest iPhone could have the makings of a cutting-edge virtual reality device — an innovation that could buck critics of the company's fall lineup.

The phone's camera lays the groundwork to let users capture content with more depth, exactly the kind of technology that could lend itself to user-generated virtual reality (VR) content, writes Ben Thompson of technology blog Stratechery:

What Apple didn't say was that they are releasing the first mass-marketvirtual reality camera. The same principles that make artificial bokeh possible also go into making imagery for virtual reality headsets. Of course you probably won't be able to use theiPhone 7 Plus camera in this way — Apple hasn't released a headset, for one —but when and if they do the ecosystem will already have been primed, and you can bet FaceTime VR will be be an iPhone seller.

The new iPhone 7 camera, debuted on Wednesday, gives users the ability to zoom further into images, and a new "portrait" software mode creates the shallow depth of field or bokeh (where a subject in focus against a blurred background) that was previously a hallmark feature of high-end digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras.

As predicted, the Plus also has two rear 12-megapixel cameras — one with a wide angle lens and one with a telephoto lens. A new chip uses machine learning to detect objects and set exposure, focus, cinema-standard color, and...