Apple Patent Points to a Possible Future 3D Camera and Extension of their 3D Parallax UI to CarPlay and Apple Watch
Back in 2012 we originally covered Apple's 3D eye-tracking interface invention that described 3D UI effects such as parallax, interaction within a virtual 3D world and more. Then late in December 2014 we covered Apple's granted patent regarding this technology. The patent was titled "Three dimensional user interface effects on a display by using properties of motion." Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a new patent application from Apple that shows that they're updating their 3D invention. The additions are key and in sync with a newly discovered patent in Europe today regarding a 3D camera.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted below illustrates an exemplary 3D UI technique that may be employed by a personal electronic device operating in a 21/2D operating system environment mode.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 noted above illustrates the effects of device movement on a personal electronic device presenting a virtual 3D depiction of a graphical user interface object.
The main patent verbiage is identical to Apple's granted patent. The differences are found in Apple's patent claims. This is where Apple lists exactly what they want to protect in their invention. Some of the what was in Apple's granted patent summary wasn't protected under the patent's claims, so Apple has refined this to include things like infrared sensors being used in their front facing camera.
Another important addition to Apple's 3D patent is found in Apple's claim number 7 as follows: "The graphical user interface method of claim 1, wherein the device comprises at least one of: a computer monitor, a watch, a music player, a television screen, or a dashboard display in a car or other vehicle." Obviously Apple wants to ensure their technology is protected for use in Apple Watch, CarPlay and possible future use in Apple's iMac, iPod or HDTV.
Another new entry is found in Apple's patent claim 16 which now covers the following: "The non-transitory program storage device of claim 15, wherein at least one of the one or more optical sensors comprises: a front-facing camera, an image sensor, a two-dimensional camera, a stereoscopic camera, an infrared camera, proximity sensor, video camera, or a laser.
The Addition of a Stereoscopic Camera is Important
The addition of a stereoscopic or 3D camera is a very important considering Apple's acquisition of Israel's PrimeSense. PrimeSense technology was originally earmarked for Google's Project Tango regarding a smartphone with a backside 3D camera as noted in our April 2014. The graphic below illustrates this in detail.
More importantly perhaps is our discovery this morning of a new patent application in Europe that is now being assigned to Apple under the title "Integrated Structured-Light Projector." This would support Apple's adding a "laser" to their camera as noted above in patent claim 16 that we pointed out.
In patent claim 2 of the original PrimeSense patent that is now Apple's, we find this: "The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the light-emitting elements comprise vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs)."
The context of the patent application revolves around "miniature optical projectors." More specifically, the projector is used in context with 3D mapping or "depth mapping."
Apple's Euro patent FIG. 2A shown below is a schematic side view of an integrated optical projection module within a device.
This is important to know that Apple is working on a 3D camera for future iDevices as Intel made a big deal about their RealSense camera during CES this week.
Intel had an HP executive on stage during their keynote this week to talk about the new RealSense camera being used in their new Sprout PC. We originally covered Intel's introduction of their 3D depth camera way back in mid-June 2013 and once again in November 2014 when Intel's Kirk Skaugen, Intel's SVP in charge of Intel's PC chip business, announced that their new 3D camera was coming to market in 2015.
The new Sprout PC is the first desktop to use Intel's new 3D camera and the upcoming Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet (seriously stupid branding), as noted below, will be the first tablet to incorporate it. Dell claims that it's the thinnest tablet on the market. It offers an 8.4" 2560 x 1600 OLED infinity display and the RealSense camera offers advanced photo editing that was demonstrated during Intel's CES keynote.
The evidence through a series of recent Apple patents clearly indicates that a 3D camera is on the drawing board for future iDevices. Now with Dell striking first with a tablet with a 3D camera, the pressure is now on Apple to deliver it.
With PrimeSense already having a working 3D camera module and one that could also double as a projector if so desired, Apple is likely to introduce iDevices with a 3D camera later this year if all goes well.
Apple credits Ricardo Motta, Mark Zimmer, Geoff Stahl, David Hayward and Frank Doepke as the inventors of patent application 20150009130 which was filed in Q3 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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