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If all of Apple’s patents and patent applications actually get turned into products, the future will have arrived.

Latest example: a new patent application that could allow users to interact with 3D images floating in air.

Entitled “Interactive Three-Dimensional Display System” and published today as part of the patent review process, the application describes a display system “that allows a user to interact with three-dimensional projected images that have been formed in mid-air.”

There are four parts to the system – display of the primary 3D image, an optical system to project a secondary image based on the first, a sensor system to monitor user interactions, and the supporting computer interface and control circuitry. You wouldn’t need glasses to view the 3D.

A laser projection system could create an image in a non-linear crystal, and then an optical system might use parabolic mirrors or lenses to project a 3D image into mid-air.

A user interacts with the projected image via infrared or other kinds of sensors that use “trilateration techniques” for detection of reflections and beam interruptions to track the user’s movements and update the projected image. Gestures can involve one or more fingers, hands, objects, or users and are intended to support pinching, sliding, swiping, rotating, flexing, dragging, and tapping.

What kind of use cases would this sort of system support? The application points to such “environments as education, medical diagnostics, biomechanical engineering, etc.” One can imagine interactive visualizations of, say, physics concepts for students, virtual surgery run-throughs for doctors, or miniature models of vehicles. The application describes “an image,” so it might be a stretch to envision this as covering some future form of TV.

Apple Insider, which first brought the application to light, notes that the Vermeer 360-degree viewable display, shown in 2011 by Microsoft Research, may present a similar system.


If so, get ready for a legal battle if this patent is awarded and implemented.

Via Apple Insider


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