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.