• Apple Awarded Patent to Bring Star Trek to Your Living Room

    Apple was awarded 13 new patents today by the US Patent and Trademark Office and one—if it can ever be fully realized and brought to market—could change the way we interact with our computing devices forever.

    The patent raising the most eyebrows describes a "3D Display and Imaging System" straight out of Star Trek. The system creates an invisible space in front of the user that contains holographic images the user can interact with, or a screen on which the users hands are projected and can then interact with objects in the virtual space. The technology that Apple plans to implement appears incredibly versatile and incredibly complex.

    Imagine being able to project any type of virtual space into a room, being able to interact with it, and allowing developers to have free reign to come up with new ways to utilize the technology via The App Store. One of the more interesting possibilities Apple outlines is an advanced 3D paint application that allows users to create 3D objects in the holographic space and manipulate the created objects.

    Both hands could be used to perform point and selection functions. For example, the index finger of the left hand could be used to point to certain locations inside the imaging volume or space, while the index finger of the right hand could be used to select those locations as vertices (e.g., by pressing a virtual button corresponding to a button image). During all these operations, the auxiliary display function would be providing immediate feedback. The right hand could also be used to select other functions, such as filling the 3D shape with a certain color or manipulating the shape by moving the vertices, or rotating or relocating (displacing) the shape, and so forth.
    How all of this technology is supposed to work is mind bogglingly complex, but previous patents for holographic imaging systems, and the existence of this patent suggests that whatever magic is going on in Apple's labs is progressing rather well. The biggest hurdles appear to be figuring out how keep track of the user and register their movements and position in space in order to allow them to interact with the projected objects. Every person looks different, and wears different clothes, so tracking people with more than a simple camera can be quite difficult as different materials and color react to light differently.

    However, what is known is that the proposed tech will work through iOS devices like iPads, iPhone,s and Apple TV, enhancing the "user experience" and "extending the display capability" or the aforementioned devices. How novel an idea, but it appears this technology will outgrow simply being a display extender. The technology's inventor, Apple's Christoph Krah, admits that during the development of the technology a number of unforeseen uses for the technology appeared. If the creators themselves are discovering new ways to utilize this incredible display and input system past what they set out to accomplish, the amount of innovation that could happen at the hands of a fresh pair of eyes is exciting.

    Reading through the patent, the question has arisen from other writers of whether or not Microsoft's Kinect is infringing upon the patent described above. I would venture that it does not. Apple's patent describes interacting in a 3D space, with projected 3D images and at it's core is a new display system. Kinect at its heart is an interaction device. Kinect is an incredibly capable controller, Apple's looks to create a virtual environment.

    iPhone 7 anyone?

    Source: Patently Apple
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