The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awarded Apple a patent today for a 3D smartphone display which uses orientation data from one or more onboard sensors to automatically determine and display a perspective projection of the 3D display.
The patent entitled “Sensor based display environment” was discovered today by Apple Toolbox, and was originally filed for in July 2010. The authors describe the invention as:
A 3D display environment for mobile device is disclosed that uses orientation data from one or more onboard sensors to automatically determine and display a perspective projection of the 3D display environment based on the orientation data without the user physically interacting with (e.g., touching) the display. The display environment can be changed based on gestures made a distance above a touch sensitive display that incorporates proximity sensor arrays
Adding fire to the rumours of 3D iPhone, earlier this month Taiwanese website Economic Daily News reported that Apple may introduce a 3D display on next year’s flagship phones, and that the company plans to create a 3D hardware and software ecosystem. In fact, Apple has been exploring 3D for several years now, with a raft of patent applications for glasses-free 3D displays.
A dynamic 3D display
Apple describes various sensors which could be employed as inputs such as a gyroscope sensor, light sensor, and proximity sensor which could be coupled with other peripherals to facilitate orientation, lighting, and proximity functions of the mobile device. A gyroscope sensor can provide orientation data to a 3D graphics processing engine, to generate camera views of the display environment. Notably, Apple also mentions a “snap to” feature for changing camera position in the display environment.
The patent appears squarely aimed at smartphones but other devices are also mentioned including a media player, tablet and games console. It’s interesting that Apple has filed patents for 3D displays, not least because other companies like Amazon (with its Fire Phone) have already launched or are actively researching into 3D systems which can adapt to the user’s head position.
While it’s not clear how Apple intends to use 3D in future versions of its devices, it’s also not certain that there is consumer demand for such a product. However, in the context of the Apple TV, it may prove to be a useful feature, particularly if a new version of the company’s diminutive set-top streamer include sensors and motion detection – and support for games.
If Apple does intend to incorporate 3D in a future iPhone for example, it would do well to remember how the Amazon Fire Phone flopped before it pushes out 3D to the masses.
Apple credits Patrick Piemonte as the sole inventor of U.S. patent number 8,907,943. Also read: Apple patent shows plans for interactive holographic display
Roland Banks has been passionate about Apple for more than a decade. He started his career at British Telecom’s research division working on collaborative virtual reality environments, before becoming a video streaming specialist at 3 UK where he helped launch some of the world’s first mobile video services.
Roland moved to Asia 4 years ago, where he writes about his passion for all things Apple.