How Apple will build a hologram

Over at Bloomberg Businessweek today I predict that Apple will soon get in the television business, building real Apple-branded TV sets chasing $14 billion in subscription fees and ad revenue. The triggers for this article were both rumors that Apple’s pipeline suppliers are gearing up to build Apple TV units, and a patent that Apple won last year for a new form of 3D.

The patent is most interesting. It provides a wonderful analysis of what is wrong with current 3D systems: users wear expensive goggles, awkward, and without goggles two or more people can’t experience 3D at one time. Who wants to drink beers during the Super Bowl like that? Apple being Apple, it proposes a fantastic concept that would use Microsoft Kinect-type movement tracking to determine where your head is, and the head of each other user in the room, and then project separate beams of light to both of each user’s eyes to provide a truly holographic experience. Since your eyes are what make the world seem three-dimensional, if Apple’s set could follow you around the room and adjust the image to both eyes instantly, you’d see objects as clear as your desk or couch floating in space. The future of moving images would be perfected.

If this technology comes to market, it would revolutionize more than TV. Imagine having a teleconference with people from the other coast floating in the room. Telecommuting might finally explode. Plane travel could become a thing of the past. Luke’s twisted crush on his sister Princess Leia, when she first beamed out of R2D2, would finally be understandable.

Here are excerpts from the Apple patent, which you can find here.

The hologram would be different

A more recent and potentially much more realistic form of autostereoscopic display is the hologram. Holographic and pseudo-holographic displays output a partial light field that presents many different views simultaneously by effectively re-creating or simulating for the viewer the original light wavefront. The resulting imagery can be quite photorealistic, exhibiting occlusion and other viewpoint-dependent effects (e.g., reflection), as well as being independent of the viewer’s physical position. In fact, the viewer can move around to observe different aspects of the image.

The hologram would support multiple viewers

A concurrent continuing need is for such practical autostereoscopic 3D displays that can also accommodate multiple viewers independently and simultaneously. A particular advantage would be afforded if the need could be fulfilled to provide such simultaneous viewing in which each viewer could be presented with a uniquely customized autostereoscopic 3D image that could be entirely different from that being viewed simultaneously by any of the other viewers present, all within the same viewing environment, and all with complete freedom of movement therein.

Viewers could manipulate the 3D images

Yet another urgent need is for an unobtrusive 3D viewing device that combines feedback for optimizing the viewing experience in combination with provisions for 3D user input, thus enabling viewing and manipulation of virtual 3D objects in 3D space without the need for special viewing goggles or headgear…

The image recognition can be implemented to distinguish between observers and non-observers, so that images are projected only to the desired targets (i.e., to the actual observers that are present) having, for example, certain predetermined defining characteristics enabling them to be distinguished accordingly.

User recognition would support customization

Still further, individual observers 132 can not only be individually distinguished, detected, and tracked, but they can be uniquely identified based upon distinctive personal characteristics (e.g., height, shoulder width, distinctive outline, etc.). Personalized observer preferences can then be stored and associated with each such observer. Then, for example, upon entering the environment of the 3D display system 100, the system would recognize such an observer 132 and customize that observer’s experiences according to the unique preferences and parameters associated therewith. Examples would include automatically authenticating the observer, personally greeting the observer upon arrival, providing a customized desktop for just that observer, providing customized control responses (e.g., responses to head movements) for that observer, resuming the 3D display where it had been previously stopped, and so forth.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

5 thoughts on “How Apple will build a hologram

  1. In Businessweek the author wrote “Apple likes to sell products with built-in obsolescence that you ‘need’ to replace every 18 months.” This is a blemish on an otherwise terrific article. In fact Apple products tend to last longer and be used by their original owners longer than competitive products. The driver of replacement is not obsolescence (i.e. failure to work) but inspiration and aspiration. New Apple products are incredibly desirable and that explains the turnover. The old products are beloved nonetheless.

  2. I completely disagree with Robert. Most Apple products cannot be upgraded to keep up with the latest software and graphics demands. In fact, I have almost every Windows machine I’ve ever owned still working in some capacity. I know people with dead Macs that just buy new ones. I guess they have money to burn.

  3. @Brett I’m guessing you’re windows machines over the years haven’t been free? And that goes for any upgrades too right? So it all works out pretty similar to buying a Mac using it for a few years, selling it (low depreciation) and then buying a new mac and so and so forth. Swings and roundabouts.

  4. in addition to a newer macpro, I have a, still working, iMac wich is like 13,or14 years old, it a partial hardware update 9-10 years back, still able to use some relatvely new software, so if you treat an apple prosuct like you should( as if it was just a little bit better than most of their competitors products, so treat them as such), they will last for a long time. But as with ALL computer and tech companys, don’t buy the first product in a new concept, it WILL, have flaws.

  5. @Brett, you’re really quite full of s….

    3 year old pc’s at my work are so slow, you can’t hardly get an internet page to load – wheras I have a 10 year old emac that loads a web page faster. I also have a 1986 Mac SE that still powers up and works fine.

    I challenge you to find any 25 year old PC in your home that still works. You and I both know you can’t.

    7 macs in my home… all 7 work flawlessly. Zero macs have every had a virus or spyware issue EVER.

    Go pound sand

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