Apple Patents Advanced 3D Imaging and User Interface

A fresh Apple patent has been discovered that promises to make all iPhones and computers just like Tony Stark's talking, holographic assistant in Iron Man. Well, it's a start at least and Apple's ideas include an affordable, compact 3D imaging and display system that can be used for input and more. The diagram below from Patently Apple shows one aspect of the 3D system in operation.

Apple patent 3D projection manipulation

Apple's plan is to give the user feedback with audio and visual signals as they provide 3D input in a defined space. This space would be scanned continually and the results of user action displayed in real time. Not only this, but a projection beam could be used to create holographic images within the space.

Scanning of the user's hands or head would take place continually using a receiver box, while another separate component would project virtual sliders or buttons etc. depending on the application. Apple has been already been known to be working on 3D holographic displays, and already has a related patent on that subject. The scanning beam would utilize a mirror much like they have at the grocery store checkout, except the beam would be infrared and not visible to the user.

Display is a whole different story, and three-color illumination could be combined with internal mirrors to make a static display appear three-dimensional. In addition, there's the possibility of projecting holographic imagery within the actual user input space. Apple specifically mentions the use of iPod touch, iPhones and iPad devices as extended displays that could be used along with the 3D imaging and display system.

As Patently Apple explains, Apple concepts such as a projection keyboard for iPhones and a built-in document scanner for iOS devices point to the company's movement in the direction of these advanced technologies. Making them portable, convenient and affordable seems to be Apple's overarching goal by widely deploying these features in future everyday devices.