Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals their quiet and ongoing work on autostereoscopic displays, better known as 3D displays. The last three such Apple patents that we've covered on this topic could be viewed here: one, two and three. Beyond that, Apple has been working on a VR headset for some time now with one showing how you'd be able to choose your viewing angle or seat for an event.
Today's newly published patent application surfaced showing a single inventor by the name of Jean-Jacques Drolet titled "Fine-Course Autostereoscopic Display." Drolet has a number of patents to his credit with some of them having no connection to Apple – or are simply not yet assigned to Apple. His linkedIn background reveals that he worked at Holoplex where he worked on a project in collaboration with Sony on an optoelectronic neural network that experimented on an optical-correlator-based gesture recognition system.
Holoplex has been a pioneer in VR and VR experiences for VR headsets, tablets, TV's and browsers. Drolet studied at the California Institute of Technology where he racked up some experience being a part of a few cutting edge inventions/patents. The first was granted in 1996 and the second granted in 1999 with both sharing the same title of "Compact architecture for holographic systems."
Today's patent application primarily relates to a 3D display for Macs. Apple notes that "The electronic device may have a camera that monitors the location of the viewer. The beam steerer may be adjusted based on information on the location of the viewer that is gathered from the camera."
In another example, it would appear that the display could be part of a TV or Mac, as Apple further notes that "the viewer may not always remain directly in front of the display. For example, a viewer may change position with respect to the display in order to "look around" objects being displayed in three dimensions.
In a conventional display, the angular range of the display is limited by the angular range of pixels 22 (i.e., the maximum angular range of the display will be limited by the configuration of the array of subpixels 22SUB in each pixel). When a beam steerer is used, however, it is possible to provide coarse angular deflections for emitted light in addition to the fine angular deflections of the light rays emitted from the subpixels."
Such a description would strongly support another Apple patent regarding what's actually on the display, such as a 3D GUI as noted below.
Apple's latest patent filing supports this in FIG. 8 noted below in how it would execute on such a GUI.
3D interfaces don't have to require special glasses as is illustrated in this 2009 demo on an iPhone.
Quick Overview of the Fine-Coarse Autostereoscopic Display System
According to Apple, "Input-output circuitry in an electronic device such as input-output devices #12 may be used to allow data to be supplied to device #10 and to allow data to be provided from device #10 to external devices.
The list of input-output devices #12 also supports the view that this invention is primarily being aimed at Macs as they note that the device would support buttons, joysticks, scrolling wheels, touch pads, key pads, keyboards, microphones, speakers, tone generators, vibrators, cameras such as camera #20, sensors such as accelerometer #18 or other sensors that can detect the orientation of the device relative to the Earth and/or relative to a user, light-emitting diodes and other status indicators, data ports, etc.
A user can control the operation of the device by supplying commands through input-output devices #12 and may receive status information and other output from the device using the output resources of input-output devices #12.
Input-output devices may include one or more displays such as display #14. The display may be a touch screen display that includes a touch sensor for gathering touch input from a user or the display may be insensitive to touch. A touch sensor for the display may be based on an array of capacitive touch sensor electrodes, acoustic touch sensor structures, resistive touch components, force-based touch sensor structures, a light-based touch sensor, or other suitable touch sensor arrangements.
The control circuitry #16 may be used to run software on the device such as operating system code and applications. During the operation of the device the software running on the control circuitry may display images on display, including 3D images.
In the illustrative configuration of FIG. 7 noted above, the device/computer viewer noted as a pair of eyes #52 at the bottom of the figure, may be located in a first viewing region/angle #46 or a second viewing region/angle 48 or a third viewing region/angle 50 – each time seeing the content on the display from another angle and being able to look behind a given object on the display.
For more details about this invention, see Apple's patent application 20160212413 which was originally filed in Q1 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
If done right, a 3D interface could be very cool and the next frontier for computing that just might have the power to revive the PC industry.
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