Google patent delivers close-up photos when your phone can't, Blade Runners would approve

It's been 30 years since we saw Deckard track down replicants by having a machine "enhance" pictures, and yet we're still stuck with distant-looking photos when we want more detail than our smartphone cameras can manage. While we'd argue that a few phones already live in that Blade Runner future, Google has just obtained a patent that could give the rest of us a helping hand. If the zoom isn't up to snuff, the proposed software could gauge a mobile device's position and orientation to offer a closer, already-taken photo from a server as a substitute, whether it's a Street View shot or a more traditional image. The geocoded system could even cue photos based on the time of day and year to provide that extra dash of authenticity. We already get a trace of the concept through photo overlays within Street View itself, although there's no indication as to whether or not Google will link our camera apps directly to a cloud of substitute photos -- suffice it to say that the industry has changed a lot since Google was using the iPhone 3G to illustrate its photography concepts.