In early June a patent application from Apple surfaced describing a very sophisticated infrared camera system. One of the key aspects of that patent was its potential use with portable devices like an iPhone in places like a museum. The patent discussed the interrelation between an infrared camera in a future iPhone working seamlessly with infrared emitters located throughout a museum, for example. In that scenario, the iPhone user would hold their iPhone up to shoot a video or photograph an artifact while the museum's infrared emitter would send additional information to your iPhone describing said artifact. Marrying the live photo or video with descriptions of the artifact would appear as a seamless image on your iPhone. It would be like having a private tour guide of the museum with you at all times. Today, another piece of that puzzle came together in a new patent application from Apple describing the use of dual transparent displays working in conjunction with dual backside device cameras to provide users with the ultimate augmented reality application.
The Future Could Deliver Transparent Displays
Sometimes the right video could cut through some of the mental clutter associated with a new concept and make it come to life. One aspect of Apple's new patent clearly describes the use of a sophisticated dual display system. In one scenario, the user will be able to actually view what's directly behind the display while running another application in the forefront at the very same time. Sounds a little confusing, right? Well, this is where the following video comes into play. Once you see the concept playing out before your eyes, you'll have a better understanding of what Apple's patent is presenting.
Transparent or Opaque
In Samsung's video, the notebook display is clearly 100% transparent allowing the light to shine through. In contrast, Apple envisions the ability to offer total transparency if an application calls for that, but could also have the rear display appear opaque so that the device could function normally for reading and surfing without distraction of what's playing out behind the device. As noted in patent FIG. 6, one of the keys to this system is this new "Viewing Program" which controls how Apple implements various views on each display. Apple's patent doesn't go into great detail about this application at this stage of development.
According to Apple's document, the viewing program may allow for a portion of the display to be selectively transparent while the remainder of the area of the display being opaque (this is generally depicted in FIG. 7 above ). As we noted in our opening summary, Apple's previous patent describing a visit to a museum fits in perfectly here. The backside camera could provide the user with a true view of an artifact or painting while Apple's "viewing program" would determine how to display the relating text and graphics on the opaque portion of the display as shown in patent FIG. 7.
To further advance the realistic nature of this application, Apple's document discloses that it's possible that one future device embodiment could actually implement two backside cameras so as to create a 3D image of an artifact or tourist attraction. In patent point number 41 we read: "The rear facing cameras may be utilized to capture images for viewing on the display 14. In one embodiment, through the use of two rear facing cameras, images of a viewable real-world object may be captured and rendered on the display 14 in a three dimensional manner."
Using Transparent Displays to Present Meaningful Augmented Reality
In the video describing Samsung's new product they revealed that one of the future applications for transparent displays could be a heads-up GPS display (or theoretically a part of a smart windshield system providing drivers with various live information). Likewise, Apple thinks that the the dual display overlay concept as illustrated in patent FIG. 7 could be used in tour busses. As the tourist is looking out their window to view a main tourist site, the smart-window could actually present a description of what they're looking at, acting as a private tour guide. This is a very cool and practical application – if Apple could find the right partners to pull this all together. Other applications could theoretically spill over to retail shop windows whereby the store owner could present live information about a sale or present pricing information and a description of items on display.
In more practical applications, Apple is focused on augmented reality. Apple's document states that "the overlays may be transmitted onto a display screen that overlays a museum exhibit, such as a painting. The overlay may include information relating to the painting that may be useful or interesting to viewers of the exhibit. Additionally, overlays may be utilized on displays in front of, for example, landmarks, historic sites, or other scenic locations. The overlays may again provide information relating to real-world objects as they are being viewed by a user." Once again, this repeats what we learned in our April patent report that we duly noted.
Apple's patent application 20110164047 was originally filed in Q4 2009 by inventor Aleksandar Pance.
Notice: Patently Apple presents a brief yet detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. Apple's patent applications have provided the Mac community with a clear heads-up on some of Apple's greatest products including the iPod, iPhone, the iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more.
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