Apple’s iPad models were given a host of new software-based skills and enhancements as part of the latest iOS 11 update — however one third-party app developer has since created an entirely new, app-based feature that would theoretically employ the tablet’s existing hardware in a truly revolutionary way.
Enter Astro HQ — the same team of developers who brought us the popular Astropad drawing app for iPad. In its latest endeavor, the team has created a remarkable app for iPad and Mac dubbed Luna, which will, among other things, turn your iPad’s front-facing FaceTime camera into a “button,” which can be tapped to reveal an on-screen panel of control options.
It’s a novel idea, actually, which Astro HQ says is meant to free up screen space by taking iOS’ on-screen controls and placing them in an easily accessible, off-screen panel. Just tap the FaceTime camera once, and the window pops out. Tap it again, and it’s gone. It’s that simple. Check it out in the video below.
Battery and Privacy Concerns
Unfortunately, the feature is contingent upon the camera being constantly on, active, and scanning for input, which means there are a few loose strings attached to using it. On one hand, there are the obvious concerns not only over security, but also battery life. To address the former, devs say they’ve designed the feature to “blur camera imagery to the point of not being able to see any data coming in,” and as far as battery life, devs note how iPad’s FaceTime camera requires “less than 1% of CPU power at any given time,” anyways. Therefore, it’s hardly going to affect overall battery performance.
Also, for those who’d rather not use the FaceTime camera button, it’ll be just one feature among a much larger, cross-platform app called Luna, which Astro HQ is currently in the final stages of producing amid its wildly-successful KickStarter campaign. In addition to the FaceTime camera button, which can be disabled at the user’s request, Luna will offer iPad and Mac owners a powerful hardware-based display mirroring solution — effectively allowing them to mirror their Mac desktop to an iPad wirelessly.
While its goal is to launch Luna by May of next year, Astro cited how it’s still trying to decide what it’ll do for those against using the FaceTime button over security concerns, especially since Apple won’t allow the use of iPad’s hardware volume controls, according to CEO Matt Ronge, who also noted that his team is still waiting for final approval on its FaceTime button feature.
“We looked through the App Review guidelines, and we don’t see a reason why the Camera Button wouldn’t be allowed,” Ronge wrote in an email to The Verge, acknowledging that the decision is ultimately Apple’s. Ronge noted, however, that “other apps have done similar things with the proximity sensor on the iPhone in the past” — and though iPad doesn’t have one of those — “there is precedent there.”