The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 17 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. The notables within this group include two iPhone related User Interface designs, another for their Mini DisplayPort and others relating to iTunes and their fantastic LED backlit displays. Yet one of the star patents that were granted to Apple today, is definitely one that involves a futuristic 3D stereoscopic display. Is Apple whetting our appetite for a possible future 3DTV system? Here's to hoping that Apple could actually one day deliver something beyond a little black box called Apple TV.
Granted Patent: 3D Stereoscopic Display System
Apple has been granted a patent for a 3D stereoscopic display system. Apple first applied for this patent in 2006 and we first posted a detailed report on this in March 2008. It's interesting to note that one of the key attributes of Intel's forthcoming Sandy Bridge processor is its native support for 3D stereoscopic video playback. One could only imagine that it'll only gain momentum in their 2012-2013 22nm Ivory Bridge processors that will pack 8 and 16 cores.
While it's unknown what Apple intends to do with this patent, it would definitely appear that they're thinking of a 3DTV projection system. Intel's interest in 3DTV surfaced during their October 2009 IDF keynote which we covered in our report titled "Intel IDF 2009: On the Cusp of a Whole New Industry."
Apple's patent states that "due to the special user appeal but the daunting unsolved technical challenges, a distinctive need particularly continues for practical autostereoscopic 3D displays that provide a realistic holographic experience."
Apple recognizes that there's an "urgent need is for an unobtrusive 3D viewing device that combines feedback for optimizing the viewing experience in combination with provisions for 3D user input, thus enabling viewing and manipulation of virtual 3D objects in 3D space without the need for special viewing goggles or headgear."
Apple's invention provides a three-dimensional display system having a projection screen having a predetermined angularly-responsive reflective surface function. Three-dimensional images are respectively modulated in coordination with the predetermined angularly-responsive reflective surface function to define a programmable mirror with a programmable deflection angle.
Apple credits Christopher Krah as the sole inventor of Granted Patent 7,843,449 originally filed in Q3 2006.
Granted Design Patents: iPhone Music and Mail Inbox User Interfaces
Apple credits Steven Lemay as the sole inventor of Granted Patents D628,205 and D628,206 which were both originally filed in Q3 2007. The "Inbox" design is somewhat like this graphic.
Some of the other Granted Patents Published Today
Apple was granted a number of other interesting patents today, including one for their Mini DisplayPort which was first introduced in October 2008 for their MacBook and MacBook Pro lines. Apple's Mini DisplayPort delivers a pure digital signal that could drive up to a 30-inch widescreen display. The Mini DisplayPort is ultra-compact at just 10 percent the size of a full DVI connector. Apple has also been granted a patent relating to their online iTunes store, specifically relating to the purchase of digital media assets and the purchase of media asset bundles. Additionally, Apple was granted a patent for their LED backlight display systems with highly uniform color. Apple's LED backlit displays are one of the key attributes of Apple's iMac and MacBook products. Apps and images pop off the screen with clarity and Apple's competitors are only beginning to catch up on that front.
Lastly, Apple was granted a patent entitled "Apparatus and Method for Handling Special Windows in a Display." Apple's patent Abstract states that "An apparatus and method for handling special windows in a display comprises a window manager in an operating system that is called by application programs to create special windows. The window manager embeds static key signals including encoded special window information, such as the coordinates of a window area to be specially processed, into a video RAM. An existing video interface scans the video RAM and transmits display information, including the key signals, to the display. The present invention further comprises a window decoder in the display that detects the key signals, extracts the encoded special window information, and controls display circuitry performing the desired special processing. The key signal encoding scheme does not create visually discernible display aberrations that could distract the user or interfere with normal window management.
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