Apple Adds 3D TV Patent to Portfolio

By Joseph Mandour on February 4, 2011

3d_glasses-thumb-200x123-33990 California – The latest Apple patent appears to be the complement to a closely related patent filed back in 2006.

The technology contained in these patents have the potential to overcome the three principal limitations currently affecting today’s commercial 3D televisions. The first is headgear. Bulky glasses are seen as a major impediment to the widespread adoption of those 3D TV’s dependent on their use.

TV’s which do not require headgear, however, are called “autostereoscopic” and basically come in two flavors, each with their own pluses and minuses. The first category includes parallax barrier and lenticular lens devices featuring screens containing precision-machined barriers or numerous rows of tiny lenses capable of redirecting images to one or more stereoscopic “sweet spots” within a viewing area. While this technology does accommodate multiple viewers, the sweet spots are typically small and tightly fixed in space.

Other displays utilize eye tracking in order to enlarge the stereoscopic sweet spot. However, multiple viewers are not supported by this technology, limiting the display to a single viewer. Consequently, it is not widely favored for consumer products despite the existence of a few laptop computers and other personal electronic devices for sale.

Undaunted, Apple seems intent on leapfrogging ahead with a glasses-free, whole-room, multi-viewer TV system. The first patent claims a 3D display system which utilizes a projection screen possessing an angularly-responsive reflective surface. This allows for coordinated modulation of 3D images to define a programmable mirror with a programmable deflection angle.

The claims of the second patent cover a system which not only tracks the eyes of the observer but then projects independent 3D pseudo-holographic sub-images to the left and right eyes of the viewer, thereby mimicking a hologram.

The system includes a projector, 3D imager, sensor and responsive screen which work together to allow multiple people to view 3D images from almost anywhere in a room. All without glasses!

So, although no timetable has been set for affordable, hassle-free 3D TV’s, consumers can expect ever-better products in the marketplace, so that soon we may all have our 3D experiences not only in the theater, but also from the comfort of home.

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Posted in: Patent Registration