In the age of physical distancing, taking selfies with friends has become challenging to say the least, due to the worldwide suggestion to keep six feet apart to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. A recently-discovered patent from Apple, however, shows how we might one day be able to take a group selfie without needing to be next to each other — or even in the same room for that matter.

First discovered by Patently Apple, the ‘synthetic group selfie’ patent wasn’t created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as it was originally filed back in July 2018. However, its usefulness is more valuable than ever, as the desire to feel connected in an age of physical distancing is growing.

A pair of illustrations from the patent showing how the layers within the composited scene could be moved around to better frame people within the selfie.

According to the patent, you could create a ‘synthetic group selfie’ by inviting friends and family to a shared photo session. The group selfie mode would then place those invited to the session next to one another in the image to give the appearance that everyone is right there in the frame. The patent also notes this mode could be used for video and livestreaming options with other options for changing the arrangement of people within the frame.

An illustration from the patent showing how the composition process would work.

As with all patents, it’s unclear if we’ll ever see this option in a forthcoming iOS update. But it would be a convenient option now more than ever, making virtual interactions more social while still staying distanced.