Chinese company shows phone with camera hidden behind the screen

Key Points
  • Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo shows off a prototype of a phone with a selfie camera that hides under the screen.
  • The display turns off the pixels around the camera when you need to take a photo.
  • Here's a look at the phone, which was recently demoed at the MWC tech conference in Shanghai.
Oppo's camera hides on the front of the screen under the display.

Chinese phone maker Oppo published new photos on Wednesday of a prototype phone that hides the front-facing selfie camera completely inside the screen.

The prototype was on display at the MWC tech conference in Shanghai.

Right now, since cameras aren't yet able to sit beneath a screen, manufacturers like Apple need to create a notch at the top of the screen that allows the camera and other sensors to sit on the front of the device while still allowing as much screen as possible.

Even with the camera launched, it hides below the screen in the black border above, where the pixels have been turned off.

Samsung has helped to alleviate this with its new Infinity-O displays, which leave just a tiny hole for the camera lens. And OnePlus, which is owned by the same company as Oppo, has worked to create smartphones where the whole front is one big display by including a mechanical camera that hides inside the phone and pops up when you need it.

You can see the camera appearing when it's needed here.

But this Oppo solution means you don't need notches, holes or mechanical stowaway cameras. Instead, the camera lens sits under the screen. It hides completely when you're watching videos or doing anything else with the phone, but the camera lens will appear when you need it.

The technology appears to work by turning off the screen's pixels where the camera sits, allowing light to come through to the camera sensor.

"It utilizes a customized camera module, an enhanced translucent panel material combined with advanced processing algorithms to take vivid pictures without a notch or motorized camera," Oppo said in a tweet. In a video demo from Oppo, you can see that the area around where the camera appears becomes completely black. This likely also helps prevent any outside light from ruining a picture.

Oppo said this is just a taste of its technology, and didn't say when it might be available in a phone you can buy. But this is probably how most front-facing cameras will work in the future.

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