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The Devil's Advocate - TMO Scoop: Apple Files Patent for Looking Glass
by - January 25th, 2006

From the out of left-field department, on June 21, 2004, Apple filed for patent application no. 20060007222 for an "Integrated Sensing Display."   Of course just because Apple filed for a patent application does not mean the company will release a product; but in this case, let's hope they do.

Basically this invention morphs a camera with a screen.  And I'm not talking about putting an iSight above the screen.  The screen's surface area is the camera. Each pixel would have an image capture element. So I theorize you could just put a piece of paper in front of the screen, and it could just appear like a reverse-mirror-dissolve onto the screen.  It could be quite the intuitive and "magic" way to capture images of all kinds.

Mirror mirror on the wall...

It also fixes a problem that cannot be fixed with an iSight as this panel would let  "a user ... maintain eye contact with someone on screen because the camera is 'in' the screen." 

The patent application shows that an image sensor would be located next to each pixel:


Display screen (300) with image sensors (305) forming a sensor array

It's not clear what the effective resolution of each image capture sensor would be, however, even if each element had some marginal resolution, the effective resolution of a 30" LCD capture screen would be very high.

Cost & Applications?

The application notes that this technology could be integrated into many display technologies and form factors including CRTs, Plasmas, LCDs and PDAs.


Individual image sensor

It's not clear just how much it would cost to use millions of image capture elements per screen; it likely would be cost prohibitive for consumers, at least initially. Also, I'm not sure how useful this would be to the average user. Indeed, the patent application notes that such a device could be useful for medical imaging.  

Anyway, I'm just happy to see something so creative come out of any company. If the display "sees" you, and can sense positions, new user interface advances like gesture-sensitive touch-screens (check out these videos) become more likely to come our way. In a world overstuffed with mediocrity, sometimes its enough if something is just cool and fun for its own sake.

is an attorney. Please don't hold that against him. This work does not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of The Mac Observer, any third parties, or even John for that matter. No assertions of fact are being made, but rather the reader is simply asked to consider the possibilities.

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