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Apple Patents Glasses-Free 3D Projector

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the no-specs-required dept.

Displays 171

angry tapir writes "Apple has been awarded a US patent for a display system that would allow multiple viewers to see a high-quality 3D image projected on a screen without the need for special glasses, regardless of where they are sitting. Entertainment is far from the only field in which 3D can enhance the viewing experience: others include medical diagnostics, flight simulation, air traffic control, battlefield simulation, weather diagnostics, advertising and education, according to Apple's US patent 7,843,449 for a 3D display system."

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innovative? (1, Flamebait)

mug funky (910186) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412832)

could this actually be innovative technology from Apple?

i'm kind of impressed.

Re:innovative? (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412848)

could this actually be innovative technology from Apple?

i'm kind of impressed.

Nope, the Death Star has prior art.

Re:innovative? (4, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414092)

could this actually be innovative technology from Apple?

i'm kind of impressed.

Nope, the Death Star has prior art.

The Death Star has non-enabling prior art. If you wanted to patent "1. A method of projecting a 3D image, comprising: (a) projecting a 3D image so it appears in free space," the Death Star would be just fine. But as soon as you start including additional elements about how you do that, Star Wars ceases to enable one of skill in the art to make and use the system.

Re:innovative? (1)

kurokame (1764228) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412852)

It's not. This method has been known for ages.

Re:innovative? (1)

Entropy2016 (751922) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412960)

Got an example you can link to?

Re:innovative? (4, Informative)

kurokame (1764228) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413022)

Here's a good read on the subject.

Sexton, I. and Suramn, P. "Stereoscopic and autostereoscopic display systems." Signal Processing Magazine, IEEE 16:3 (1999). pg. 85-99.

The parent method of the approach they're using is parallax barrier autostereoscopy, which is covered in patents going back to 1901...

Re:innovative? (4, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413308)

I haven't read the patent, but it appears to be far more than just what you're describing. What they've done is hooked it up to a computer which can apparently adjust the effect based upon the location of the viewers in the room. Which is in and of itself worthy of a patent if they've succeeded in doing so.

Re:innovative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34414040)

so is it then still 3D for all viewers or do they have to sit in the more or less same place? Because I wouldn't really call the latter revolutionary, even if the computer knows by itself where people are sitting.
I remember some vids from back when the Wii was released and some guys "reversed" the system, having the infrared thingies on the head and the sensors on the TV. That made it look 3D from that guys perspective, even when he moved. So if this patent only takes away that small peripheral, I would said it's not that great of an impovement in practice over something some guy could do by himself at home. [nope, I can't be bothered to dig out that link]

But I am probably wrong^^

Re:innovative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34414120)

So, it's like the MIT student who, many years ago, hooked up a Wii sensor bar to his hat, had the Wiimote near the monitor, and had a 3D perspective to the viewer--pretty cool hack but not groundbreaking--but also with autostereoscopy, and instead of tracking near-infrared LEDs, it tracks ones' eyes...

Yeah, it sounds like only the second part of the invention is patent worthy, especially if it can deliver a 3D experience to two or more people.

Re:innovative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34414208)

Which is in and of itself worthy of a patent if they've succeeded in doing so.

They got the patent. It should be clear that "they've succeeded in doing so"?

Moreover, we should be able to use the information in the patent and "do so" ourselves. This is the whole point of the patent system. They get a limited time exclusive control on the new technology and, in return, we get the full details on how to implement the new technology ourselves.

Re:innovative? (4, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414114)

Here's a good read on the subject.

Sexton, I. and Suramn, P. "Stereoscopic and autostereoscopic display systems." Signal Processing Magazine, IEEE 16:3 (1999). pg. 85-99.

The parent method of the approach they're using is parallax barrier autostereoscopy, which is covered in patents going back to 1901...

Oh?

1. A method of displaying three-dimensional images, comprising:
providing a projection screen having a spatial filter defining a predetermined angularly-responsive reflective surface function;
determining the left and right eye locations of at least one observer in proximity with the projection screen;
projecting left and right sub-images of a three-dimensional image toward the projection screen; and
angularly and intensity modulating the left and right sub-images respectively in coordination with the predetermined angularly-responsive reflective surface function to define respective discrete light paths that respectively direct the left and right sub-images to reflect from the projection screen to the respective left and right eye locations to provide a three-dimensional viewing experience.

I don't know that you're going to find systems in 1901 that determine eye locations of viewers and dynamically modify images to match the eye locations. But, since you're so certain, link away!

Re:innovative? (1, Insightful)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414168)

Don't people bitch all the time about patents that do something done before, but just tack on "but with a computer"? It's not like Apple invented the eye tracking tech, or any other part. They just put the pieces together. But with a computer.

Re:innovative? (2)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414204)

Don't people bitch all the time about patents that do something done before, but just tack on "but with a computer"? It's not like Apple invented the eye tracking tech, or any other part. They just put the pieces together. But with a computer.

Well, of course, people complain about that. It's really quite handy: it's an indication that they have no idea what they're talking about, and are quibbling about a dependent claim while ignoring the innovating independent claim. For example, these people would bitch about something that had as claim 2: "The method of claim 1, wherein the network is the Internet," and completely ignore that the method of claim 1 describes a working teleportation machine that transports people through a network.

Basically, complaining about patents by saying they're just "X, but with a computer" is a shorthand way to dismiss yourself from the conversation. So, really, we all appreciate it.

Re:innovative? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34413040)

Does this count?

http://www.physorg.com/news188550483.html [physorg.com]

Re:innovative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34413196)

Great find, very informative. Thanks, fellow coward.

Re:innovative? (2)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413250)

Does this count?

That was published nearly four years after Apple's patent application, so probably does not count.

Re:innovative? (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413278)

Patent applications defines "how" a 3D image is displayed. Apple has patented their way and so have many many others. If Apple's way happens to be the best way then the patent becomes very valuable.

Re:innovative? (5, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413292)

No it doesn't. From the description in the article Apple has something much more sophisticated. It apparently is smart enough to know where the individuals are sitting and makes accommodations for that. Rather than requiring an individual to sit in a particular place like all the other systems like this do. If they've managed to pull that off, I'll have to be the first one to tip my hat to their innovation. And I'm rare to do that as they're usually more evolutionary than revolutionary. But this would be a significant step forward in the technology.

Re:innovative? (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413764)

It apparently is smart enough to know where the individuals are sitting and makes accommodations for that. Rather than requiring an individual to sit in a particular place like all the other systems like this do.

What about Wii head tracking (Google is your friend)?

Re:innovative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34414088)

Could this be a use for the Kinect with a 3D display? Curious if we'll see any of that in the hacking going on.

Re:innovative? (0)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413086)

Nope.
There are quite a few different methods to accomplish this.
For what apple wants to do with it the Panel method is probably what they "patented".

Panel System: This is the most likely use of 3D without glasses. What happens is that a thin screen is placed in front of the TV which as the same function as glasses would. It polarizes the images and causes the right and left eye to receive different images. This would create a 3D effect without any glasses at all.

Apple finds ways to patent things that are already out there by simply taking something designed for projection rooms and putting it on a phone or a computer.

They then have a large portfolio of indefensible patents which look good on paper, but as soon as they try to enforce them they lose big time.

Apple recently put a whole bunch of patents at risk of being declared invalid when they tried to exercise them against Nokia. See Here [osnews.com] and also Here. [cultofmac.com]

Re:innovative? (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413310)

You know, the submitter thoughtfully included a link to the patent, so you would not have had to (wrongly) to guess what Apple is patenting.

(Although, actually, here is a better copy [pat2pdf.org] of the patent, as a single PDF file including diagrams. That patent office site sometimes makes it hard to get images on some browsers/OSes).

Re:innovative? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413364)

I read the patent.
I didn't guess wrong.
I suggest you read the patent again and filter out the baffel-gab.

Re:innovative? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34413448)

Panel System: This is the most likely use of 3D without glasses. What happens is that a thin screen is placed in front of the TV which as the same function as glasses would. It polarizes the images and causes the right and left eye to receive different images. This would create a 3D effect without any glasses at all.
 
Apple finds ways to patent things that are already out there by simply taking something designed for projection rooms and putting it on a phone or a computer.

Wrong. And wrong again.

Simply putting a polarizer in front of the screen does NOTHING without the matching polarized GLASSES.

Have you ever been to a 3-D movie that DIDN'T require glasses?

Since the answer is undoubtedly "no", then how is this "simply taking something designed for projection rooms and putting on a phone or computer." ???

You might try reading up on how 3-D projection using polarizers actually works BEFORE posting and making yourself look the fool.

Re:innovative? (0, Flamebait)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413686)

Re:innovative? (1)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414096)

From your second link:

Panel System: This is the most likely use of 3D without glasses. What happens is that a thin screen is placed in front of the TV which as the same function as glasses would. It polarizes the images and causes the right and left eye to receive different images. This would create a 3D effect without any glasses at all.

Okay, I'm confused, polarization works with glasses because the two lenses have different polarities, so each eye gets the correct image. The polarization is just used as a filter. How does polarizing the light at the source (without the glasses) get us to 3-d? Unless of course the panel is some fixed distance front and center of the viewer, so it can direct the correct image to th correct eye, and so is effectively acting as a set of glasses that you don't have to wear.

Re:innovative? (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413746)

could this actually be an article about a reasonable patent on Slashdot? i'm kind of impressed,

Suspicious patent? (4, Interesting)

Meshach (578918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412850)

According to a better article [macnn.com] Apple applied for the patent in 2006 but has yet to actually build any products that use the idea. Conveniently others have done the work and build products (google news search [google.ca] ). This looks like some patent trolling from Apple.

Re:Suspicious patent? (2)

meheler (193628) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412876)

I was about to ask, have they actually developed the tech or are they just blanketing a generic concept.

Re:Suspicious patent? (3, Informative)

Meshach (578918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412942)

No. From the other article linked above [macnn.com] (emphasis mine):

The patent was originally submitted in September 2006. Apple has expressed considerable interest in 3D tracking and interfaces, for instance through a remote concept. It has yet to implement any of its ideas in a shipping product, however, despite the newfound popularity of 3D amongst movie and gaming companies.

Re:Suspicious patent? (5, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413030)

It has yet to implement any of its ideas in a shipping product

I certainly don't want to come to Apple's defense, but that isn't the same as saying they are not developing the technology. It just says they aren't shipping anything with the technology. It has only been 4 years since application, and it is entirely possible that the technology works but is incredibly expensive at this stage, or not reliable enough, or not "good" enough yet. Apple is typically NOT the first to release a product type, just the first to release a really good one. So I've heard at least, as I haven't owned an Apple product since my Mac 7600.

I'm not saying that they aren't planning to troll, but I don't think you can jump to any conclusion based on that single fact.

Re:Suspicious patent? (2)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413800)

The whole point of patenting things (aside from trolling, which is actually contrary to the point, but anyway) is to get to market first because the PTO gives you a temporary monopoly (you're expected to exploit said monopoly, as a subsidy for the effort of invention).

Ergo, Apple filing a patent and then not getting to market promptly is kind of silly.

Perhaps they feared someone else's patent (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414060)

The whole point of patenting things (aside from trolling, which is actually contrary to the point, but anyway) is to get to market first because the PTO gives you a temporary monopoly (you're expected to exploit said monopoly, as a subsidy for the effort of invention). Ergo, Apple filing a patent and then not getting to market promptly is kind of silly.

Not necessarily. They may have feared that a competitor would file a similar patent first. Even if it takes 5 years to get the invention to market they would still get 15 years of patent protection, as opposed to zero if they were not the first to file.

There is also the likelihood of needing the full 20 years of protection, odds are someone will invent a competing technology that is clear of Apple's patent.

Re:Suspicious patent? (4, Informative)

gilgoomesh (966411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413868)

I haven't owned an Apple product since my Mac 7600.

The PowerMac 7600? You realize that you gave up on Apple just before they started getting good at making computers again?

Re:Suspicious patent? (3, Insightful)

kcorder (930452) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414132)

Agreed, it can take 5 or more years to go from patent to market in a high tech market. It's silly to think that just because no product in a couple of years since patent that it's patent trolling.

Re:Suspicious patent? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413178)

So the projector would have to track every pair of eyes in the audience and project a separate beam to each and every eye? Buahahahahahahaha
Not saying it's impossible, just saying it's fucking retarded.

Re:Suspicious patent? (1)

ekgringo (693136) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414024)

Maybe they could map out a grid in the theater and make an approximation based on the average location of eyeballs of viewers in each of the grid segments. Would the detail be close enough that they wouldn't have to actually track the individual pairs of eyeballs of a crowded theater?

Re:Suspicious patent? (3, Insightful)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413330)

Your Google search gives a bunch of results about products that implement glasses-free 3D with various problems that the Apple method is designed to overcome. There's also no support in your references for your claim that Apple has not built anything using the idea. They have not shipped anything using the idea. It is quite likely they have built prototype products using it.

Dude that would be soo cool... (5, Funny)

Local ID10T (790134) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412860)

"Dude, you know what would be really awesome?"
"What?"
"If there was a display system that would allow multiple viewers to see a high-quality 3D image projected on a screen without the need for special glasses, regardless of where they are sitting."
"Dude... that would be totally awesome."
"We should totally invent that someday"
"Lets patent it just in case someone really does it!"
"Yeah!"

Re:Dude that would be soo cool... (1)

kurokame (1764228) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412944)

Yeah, that's a lot of what's wrong with the current patent system. The other parts are that review is mainly conducted through post-hoc litigation, and that the system therefore is mainly a tool for people with lots of lawyers to fight other people with lots of lawyers while more or less freely exploiting any players with no lawyers.

Re:Dude that would be soo cool... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34412988)

Except that this patent has eye tracking so it only works for 1 person at a time.

Re:Dude that would be soo cool... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34413656)

Except that this patent has eye tracking so it only works for 1 person at a time.

It's not broken, you're looking at it wrong!

Does seem to be the case (5, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413078)

If this was for a specific method or idea, we'll I'd expect to see a working display now. Unfortunately the patent is full of all kinds of obtuse language (they often are to sneak them by the examiners) so it is hard to see what they are saying but it does not look like a "Here's a specific way to make a no glasses 3D display," it looks more like a general "Well you might have a display with some angles of reflection and you might send light at them at certain angles to make 3D," kind of thing.

So certainly does smell of patent trolling. In Apple's case I would imagine the idea isn't a "Make everyone pay us royalties," thing I would imagine it is a "Force people to sell only to us." Someone develops a 3D display that needs no glasses and fits the loose patent definitions. Apple goes after them and says "We'll sue the crap out of you if you sell to anyone but us!" Apple then can roll out the "Only 3D computer/tablet/phone/fridge magnet in the world!" and claim it as "innovation."

Same kind of deal as with their mag safe connector. That one Apple invented, far as I know, but they won't license it to anyone, not to other computer makers, not even for people to make accessories for the Mac (and have sued people for it). They want to be able to claim it as a "special" feature, not because they put a bunch of R&D in and want to make money licensing a new technology to the world.

So that's my bet. They hope someone else will develop a 3D display (as a practical matter Apple has no display development and manufacturing arm, they buy their panels from LG.displays, and just make the final monitor like Dell and others do) and then be able to grab it as their exclusive via their patent.

I really favour a "Use it or lose it," provision for patents. You should have to either develop the technology, or license it to someone else in a non-trivial amount of time or the patent goes away. None of this "I'm patenting an idea so when someone else does the hard work it is mine," bullshit. You have a legit invention you want to make money off of? I'm all good with that. You want someone else to do the hard work of the inventing and creation? Screw you.

Re:Does seem to be the case (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413130)

"Use it or lose it" may have merit. But personally, I'd be quite happy if patents (and copyrights) were completely non-transferrable as well. No more patent trolls, no more RIAA - if the creators of the work were guaranteed ownership of the work, what would that do?

Wouldn't eliminate patent trolls (5, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413284)

See the idea of a patent wasn't ever really that you'd keep an invention all for yourself. It was that you'd license the technology for your invention to others, so you made money for the work and creativity of creating it, and everyone benefits. Patent trolls often needn't buy patents, they just make their own. They come up with stupid patents and then sue people for licensing fees. The problem is not that they have bought or sold a patent, it is that their patent is bullshit.

A "no licensing" thing for patents would be bad because it could reduce competition and even prevent products from coming to market. So say I work on some amazing new display technology and patent it. Wonderful stuff, going to change how things are done. However after that, I decide that I'm just not willing to go in to production of it. Too much money to start up, etc, etc, I'm just not interested. If I can't sell or license the tech, it then languishes until my patent expires. However if I can license it, no problem. I invent it and then license it out to existing display companies. I'm compensated for my work inventing it, they bring it to the mass market.

That is the reason for patents, the reason to not just get rid of them. They can be real important in two situations:

1) A person or small company makes a big invention. Patents keep big companies form stealing it from them and profiting off the work of others. Like if a 5 man company invented an amazing new wireless communications device that is cheap to make and effective. However since they are small, they produce them for $50 each. Motorola, being huge, can do it for $20 each. With no patents Motorola just takes their work and goes for it, and they get crushed being unable to compete.

2) A development that takes massive amounts of money. There is tech that takes many millions, even billions occasionally in research. A company will pour a ton of money and years of work in to something because it is worth it. But it is only worth it if they can make that R&D back. Suppose a company invents a new battery with 100x the capacity of current lithium batteries that is cheap to produce. They spend $250 million doing it, and in quantity the batteries cost only $1 per cell to make. Ok well they need to sell those for like $3-4 per cell or so, maybe more, to recoup their $250 million. Remember until they've cleared that, they are making zero dollars total on the product. However a competitor? Well they could sell the cells for $2, maybe even $1.50 each. They have only the production cost, so as long as they cover that the rest is unit profit. Without patents, they could do that.

The problem with patents currently isn't that they exist or can be licensed. It is that they are too broad, granted for too many things, and many of them are way too obvious. Parents are supposed to be for new, non-obvious things that took a lot of effort and/or creativity to make, not for any and everything. They are important to encouraging and supporting R&D, they just are too easy to abuse as it stands.

Re:Wouldn't eliminate patent trolls (2)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413346)

If patents were that easy to make, why don't you also join the bandwagon? Seriously. Yes, there is abuse and questionable use of patents - granted. However if an method is patented, it gives others an opportunity to invent an even better method of doing something. That, to me is what innovation is all about.

Re:Wouldn't eliminate patent trolls (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413640)

If patents were that easy to make, why don't you also join the bandwagon?

Because its not only enough to file for a patent you also need an army of lawyers to deffend it.

Well I'd have to do three things first (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413818)

1) Eliminate my moral system, since I believe parent trolling is wrong. It is more or less fraud in my book.

2) Get startup funding. Filing patents is not free. Not expensive for a company to do, but a lot for an individual.

3) Either become a lawyer or find one who was willing to work with me (probably more than one) to handle all the harassment/lawsuits/etc.

None of those interest me, in particular the morals part. I can think of a lot of activities that I could do, some of them quite well, that I wouldn't because I find them to be immoral.

Re:Wouldn't eliminate patent trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34413824)

See the idea of a patent wasn't ever really that you'd keep an invention all for yourself.

Citation, please.

Re:Wouldn't eliminate patent trolls (1)

dido (9125) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413884)

1) A person or small company makes a big invention. Patents keep big companies form stealing it from them and profiting off the work of others. Like if a 5 man company invented an amazing new wireless communications device that is cheap to make and effective. However since they are small, they produce them for $50 each. Motorola, being huge, can do it for $20 each. With no patents Motorola just takes their work and goes for it, and they get crushed being unable to compete.

That's generally how it's supposed to work in theory, but in practice what winds up happening is that the big company has a huge patent war chest and can strong-arm the small company into cross-licensing patents that cover other aspects of the invention that has been created. This is almost a certainty given the interdependency between any modern major technological innovation and other innovations of the same kind, and the way patents tend to be worded these days. In your example, once the five-man company has taken Motorola to court for patent infringement, they can then say: "Oh, but we notice that in creating your wireless communication device you are also infringing on OUR patents X, Y, and Z. Why don't we just give you a license to use those patents and you give us a license to your patent, so we can forget the whole thing? Or else we will bring a countersuit on you for YOUR patent infringement of patents X, Y, and Z!" If the company agrees to the cross-licensing deal, then Motorola keeps on making the device for $20, the small company is still stuck producing them for $50 and they get crushed being unable to compete. If they refuse, they get hit with countersuits from Motorola that bury them in legal expenses in addition to their original patent infringement suit. If this gets drawn out long enough it doesn't matter if they eventually win or lose, and they get crushed being unable to compete in court. The only way this can come out good for the five-man team is if they manage to weather all the infringement lawsuits (including the one they started!), and even then they may wind up with a Pyrrhic victory.

One way that they can escape this kind of fate is to stop mass-producing the device altogether and simply license the patent to Motorola, which then must make the device for maybe $25 instead because they need to pay royalties. They may need to take Motorola to court to acknowledge the patent, and negotiate the royalties. If this happens, how different are they from a patent troll outfit?

Re:Does seem to be the case (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413826)

would be better to require a functional prototype at application and demonstration of progress in development or commercial exploitation of a product at the time a patent is granted and every 4 years after that, failing to demonstrate and document further development or ongoing commercial exploitation will invalidate the patent,

Re:Does seem to be the case (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414070)

"Use it or lose it" may have merit. But personally, I'd be quite happy if patents (and copyrights) were completely non-transferrable as well. No more patent trolls, no more RIAA - if the creators of the work were guaranteed ownership of the work, what would that do?

It would mean that large corporations would bury inventors in litigation costs, since they couldn't simply purchase the patent or license it, even if the inventor really, really wanted to sell.

Seriously, where do you get this idea? This is like saying, "I'd be quite happy if deeds to houses were completely non-transferable. That would ensure there are no crack houses." I mean, sure, but there's a lot of people who want to sell their houses who would be really upset.

Re:Does seem to be the case (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413314)

My deep fryer has a mag safe connector. Also, Apple isn't stopping anyone from coming up with a better connector.

Re:Does seem to be the case (0)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414050)

If this was for a specific method or idea, we'll I'd expect to see a working display now

Absolutely. Why, once you've filed a patent application, all your work is done and you can instantly start cranking out product for pennies on the dollar.

What? You mean you might have to figure out other solutions, too?! But I thought a patent was a complete end-all, be-all description of how to produce an entire product! That's why there's one patent that covers "automobile," rather than several thousand! Slashdot, you've lied to me!!

Re:Does seem to be the case (1)

JAlexoi (1085785) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414126)

I can safely say, that if a person buys a Mac because of magsafe connector, then (s)he's an idiot.

Re:Dude that would be soo cool... (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413204)

So the patent system is basically "dibs".

Re:Dude that would be soo cool... (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413538)

Yeah, basically. The hard work is in making something that didn't exist before, not copying something after someone else spent time, money, and other resources creating it.

Re:Dude that would be soo cool... (2)

dudpixel (1429789) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413246)

"Dude, I have this really awesome idea"
"Well, lets hear it"
"If I tell you, you might copy it and even make money from it before I do"
"Of course, because you cant copyright ideas"
"Damn, you mean I actually have to make a product before I own the rights to it?"
"Sure do"
"Hmmm. I know, I'll create a patent system where you can 'copyright' an idea. That will get past that copyright 'loophole' and then you'll have to pay me to use my ideas and I'll get rich for doing nothing. I dont even have to invent anything - just sit here thinking all day."
"oh, but that would be corrup-"
"are you lodging a complaint? I have a patent on that. That'll be $100K please."

Re:Dude that would be soo cool... (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413352)

Actually, thanks to that post you can now claim credit [xkcd.com] for this invention.

Re:Dude that would be soo cool... (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413432)

"We should totally invent that someday"
"Lets patent it just in case someone really does it!"

No kidding.

angularly-responsive reflective surface function; determining the left and right eye locations of at least one observer in proximity with the projection screen; projecting left and right sub-images of a three-dimensional image toward the projection screen; and angularly and intensity modulating the left and right sub-images respectively in coordination with the predetermined angularly-responsive reflective surface function

Seriously? The patent is for thinking of that? If you bounce the right photons at a person's eye, it will appear 3D. No shit. The hard part is the angularly responsive reflective surface coordinated with the left and right eye locations of at least one observer, not the realization of what that would do. Realizing that such a thing would make 3D easy is not inventive. It's barely interesting. And it is certainly not non-obvious. If some real genius comes up with the surface (something like a DLP chip on steroids), he's going to get screwed and Steve Jobs will get to buy another liver.

The only thing that makes this less of a problem is the fact that such a surface probably won't exist before the patent expires and Apple will have wasted twenty grand. But it only takes one twenty million dollar settlement (or one tenth of a Disney film's profit) to pay for a thousand larks like this.

Patenting this kind of a flyer could only make sense to a company with a big war chest and a legal department with nothing better to do, or with a big stake in Disney and a desire to establish barriers to entry for competitors in the "getting children to beg their parents" market. Progress of science and the useful arts indeed. Preposterous.

Re:Dude that would be soo cool... (1)

TheScreenIsnt (939701) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413606)

Trolling sucks and our IP system is broken, yada yada, but...
That patent contains a lot of information about *how*, not just what. Of course, the language is vague and leaves you with no idea where they are with implementation; that's the lawyers' job!
I mean, this probably means *something*, right? Right?...

The system as claimed in claim 28 further comprising circuitry for determining an angle of a normal of the surface function that is correct for aiming a reflected beam into an eye of the observer using the equation: .delta..function..delta..delta..function..function..times..func- tion..pi. ##EQU00007## wherein: .delta..sub.OP is the angle of the normal of the surface function; .delta..sub.O is the angle of the reflected light beam measured from the plane of the projection screen; .delta..sub.P is the angle of a projected light beam measured from the plane of the projection screen; L.sub.P is the horizontal displacement of the projector; L.sub.PS is the vertical displacement of the projector; L.sub.O is the horizontal displacement of the observer; L.sub.OS is the vertical displacement of the observer; Z.sub.O is the average thickness of the projection screen; Z.sub.0 is the difference between the average thickness and the maximum thickness of the projection screen, x is the horizontal displacement along the surface of the projection screen; and k.sub.0=2/.lamda..sub.P wherein .lamda..sub.P is the length of a pixel that is to be projected to and from the normal location.

Re:Dude that would be soo cool... (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413808)

"Dude, you know what would be really awesome?"
"What?"
"If there was a display system that would allow multiple viewers to see a high-quality 3D image projected on a screen without the need for special glasses, regardless of where they are sitting."
"Dude... that would be totally awesome."
"We should totally invent that someday"
"Lets patent it just in case someone really does it!"
"Yeah!"

If you read the patent you'll notice that it has lots of math and such... Apple didn't just pull this out of Steve's ass.

Actual summary (2)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412868)

At least quote the interesting part:

Apple's patent describes using a special reflective screen with a rippled texture to create an autostereoscopic projection system, meaning one in which different images are projected to each eye without the need for special glasses. The system tracks the viewer's eyes and calculates their position in space. It then projects each pixel of the stereoscopic images to a precise spot on one of the screen's ripples, reflecting it into one or other of the viewer's eyes. If Apple can do this for one pair eyes, it suggests, it can project multiple images to different points on the ripples for multiple users at the same time.

Re:Actual summary (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413112)

So if I lie sideways on my couch, or tilt my head to the side, it won't work?
Colour me unimpressed.

I've seen 3D that works without prisms or special glasses. Two concave semi-mirrors with different parabolic concavity, for example, can do the job pretty well.

Re:Actual summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34413304)

So if I lie sideways on my couch, or tilt my head to the side, it won't work?

Exactly. It's the way your eyes work together. For an example of the issue, find a stereogram (same image from two angles side-by-side). When your eyes are lined up with the images, you get a 3D effect. Now rotate your head a little bit. There goes the 3D. IMHO, skip 3D; movies are fine as they are.

Re:Actual summary (2)

bodan (619290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413714)

Actually, it can work. The projecting surface is not necessarily rippled only horizontally, it can be rippled in both directions. Something like z = sin(x)sin(y), although I’m not sure if the two sins should be added, multiplied or something else; the patent includes pretty much every function that would work. This means they can project individual images up or down, not only left and right; it’s specifically mentioned in the patent.

So not only you can project stereoscopic images to someone in any head orientation (as long as they look towards the screen), but you can actually project *different* images to two observers that are separated only by height.

Re:Actual summary (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414078)

So if I lie sideways on my couch, or tilt my head to the side, it won't work?

"Flying car, huh? Well, what if I want to fly underwater? Or to Mars? What then, smartguy?! Pfff. Color me unimpressed."

Go back to listening to some band that no one here has ever heard of. That will surely cement your place in the Cool Hall of Fame.

Re:Actual summary (4, Informative)

adamdoyle (1665063) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413200)

Also, the headline is horrible: "Apple Patents Glasses-Free 3D Projector"

The innovation is the surface onto which a slightly modified projector projects. There isn't much to the projector itself. Besides, most of the patent's paperwork is describing the surface - not the projector.

Re:Actual summary (3)

bodan (619290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413758)

Not quite true. The projector has to modulate its its beam so that each projector-pixel is beamed on *a tiny specific part* of the surface-pixel (i.e., the part that is angled towards the correct eye). That’s quite hard, because each projector-pixel needs to be beamed to a *different* part of the surface-pixel, and you can’t expect the projector and the surface to be aligned to micron/second-of-arc precision (the surface will also likely be warped on the large scale in addition to its high-frequency rippling, though I don’t remember seeing that mentioned in the patent). They describe how to use the eye-tracking module to determine the alignment, though I can’t remember them describing any physical way of doing the projector-side modulation.

Entertainment-to-productivity ratio (2)

windcask (1795642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412874)

I'm wondering if this will have productive applications that couldn't also double as video games, i.e. flight simulators and combat programs. Could this be (excuse the bad pun) a new "dimension" in interface design for those of us that use computers from day to day?

If it is, my money says the Linux crowd will employ it first, Apple will make it sexy, and Windows will blatantly copy it. In that order.

Re:Entertainment-to-productivity ratio (1)

Noitatsidem (1701520) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412968)

After that, I suspect Microsoft to accuse apple of hundreds of patent infringements.

Re:Entertainment-to-productivity ratio (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413132)

If it is, my money says the Linux crowd will employ it first, Apple will make it sexy, and Windows will blatantly copy it. In that order.

Yes, because Microsoft is so behind the game [slashdot.org] . Apple did patent this back in 2006, and as far as I am aware Microsoft don't have patents for this technology. But it is not as if it was that revolutionary an idea even back in 2006, as this paper from 2005 [ieee.org] shows.

I am sure that it is not an easy thing to implement, so the real proof of the pudding will be when one company finally ships a commercial product. That is the problem with the patent system. You get rewarded just for coming up with an idea that you can't possibly implement. Then you wait until everyone else solves the implementation problems and comes out with their prototypes and then you can call the lawyers.

Mind you, knowing how secretive Apple is about forthcoming products, they may be on the verge of releasing their system right now. If that is the case then they will deserve credit as innovators.

Re:Entertainment-to-productivity ratio (1)

windcask (1795642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413168)

Did you read any more than the last sentence of my post? It was about developing a UI using this new technology, not about the technology itself.

Revolutionary. Magical. (3, Funny)

LodCrappo (705968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412932)

We hope you love the third dimension as much as we do.

Just avoid looking at it that way.

Get a (insert competitor here) if you want porn in 3D

etc...

II ffoorr oonnee...... (4, Funny)

goldaryn (834427) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412980)

......II ffoorr oonnee wweellccoommee oouurr nneeww 33DD oovveerrlloorrddss

TV watches you (2)

ooloogi (313154) | more than 3 years ago | (#34412996)

Their method needs to track the location of the viewers' eyes, so in 3D Apple, TV watches you.

Re:TV watches you (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413048)

Their method needs to track the location of the viewers' eyes, so in 3D Apple, TV watches you.

As a bonus, viewers can be charged per minute and per eye.

Re:TV watches you (1)

windcask (1795642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413104)

in 3D mother Russia, TV watches you

Re:TV watches you (1)

pipedwho (1174327) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413142)

Their method needs to track the location of the viewers' eyes, so in 3D Apple, TV watches you.

That should be _viewer's_ not _viewers'_. This may seem like a subtle distinction, but the latter implies a significant breakthrough in both physics and technology.

If eye-tracking is required for a 3D system to work, then only a single viewer per screen can be catered for.

The advantage of systems that use 3D glasses is that any number of viewers can watch the image at the same time.

Oh wait... You were going for the Soviet Russia angle. As you were.

Re:TV watches you (1)

ooloogi (313154) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413212)

I thought the whole point of this was that it did indeed cater for multiple viewers, and that was the breakthrough worthy of patenting. At least both the summary and article say it is for multiple viewers.

Re:TV watches you (1)

pipedwho (1174327) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413386)

Then you were right and it probably is worthy of a patent.

Nothing says it can't ever be done (although in re-reading my post I may have implied that), it just gets harder as the number of 'eyes' increases and/or the angle of separation between individual eyes gets tighter. Current offerings in this domain are currently very unimpressive.

Equal opportunity technology (2)

sirrunsalot (1575073) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413010)

For those of who didn't RTFA, it looks like it tracks faces and adjusts the projected images accordingly. Let's hope Apple has a slightly better debut than HP's face-tracking software [blogspot.com] .

P.S. Come on, /. Why the heck did I have to type out the whole link. No paste for Apple computers?

Re:Equal opportunity technology (2)

windcask (1795642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413150)

Why the heck did I have to type out the whole link. No paste for Apple computers?

First 3D eye-tracking TVs. Then paste. Get your priorities straight.

Re:Equal opportunity technology (1)

adamdoyle (1665063) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413216)

No paste for Chrome on Windows either...

Re:Equal opportunity technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34413388)

No paste for Chrome on Windows either...

Pasted from Chrome... Either you're an idiot or a liar.

Re:Equal opportunity technology (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413372)

As adamdoyle noted below, Slashdot also broke paste for Chrome on Windows. I'd guess they broke it for all Webkit browsers. Works fine on Firefox on Mac and IE on Windows.

Actually, you CAN paste if the textarea is empty, so what I do is cut from the textarea (if there is something I want to keep, like a quoted parent), edit my post in TextMate, then paste it to Slashdot for posting.

Also, sometimes but not always, I've found that drag-and-drop still works. At least it did a few days ago. I couldn't get it to work tonight.

Still, it is absolutely fucking ridiculous for such a major breakage to go live here.

Re:Equal opportunity technology (1)

sirrunsalot (1575073) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413916)

I'd guess they broke it for all Webkit browsers. Works fine on Firefox on Mac and IE on Windows.

Yeah, OS X 10.5.8, Safari 5.0.3. I just feared for my karma if I admitted that. They hunt fanboys like me around here. *ducks*

3D Displays? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34413182)

I'll believe it when I see it.

Builds on Apple's Expertise (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34413252)

I'm sure there's a way for Apple to leverage their past experience and expertise with Reality Distortion Fields.

Ah crap! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34413318)

Ah crap, if this patent trolling actually works, Apple isn't going to let me project anything that they don't approve

Secret Lab? (2)

Balthisar (649688) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413456)

Okay, the subject is a bit, shall we say, Area 51-ish.

But, seriously, Google gets all of this praise for their 20% personal project time allowance. I wonder if Apple does the same thing, but just doesn't ack it?

Back to the Future moment (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413496)

My brother was on a business trip in China a few months ago, and while strolling along through the airport like any other business traveler, he had a moment almost comparable to the "3D Jaws" scene in the Back-To-The-Future II? movie. He suddenly noticed a floating thing just to the side of his head, as if a big bug was about to crash into his face. He reflexively turned around and saw a 3D projection of some demonstration animation, and was completely dumbfounded. He says he stuck his arm out and was trying to grab the image. He realized afterward that he probably looked like a fool playing with thin air.

As he described it, we were both puzzled by how it worked without special glasses. It wasn't a fast rotating laser projection plate, used in some medical monitors, because he could put his hand "through" some of the projected items. Plate rotation technology can't do that.

Re:Back to the Future moment (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413644)

Concave mirror projector? I had one of these [youtube.com] toys as a kid (and who can forget that terrible wild-west video 'game'), and in college played around with the idea of using a projector and a computer to process images like that, but the hardware I could use wasn't up to the task. With today's GPU's it seems likely somebody is doing it.

Re:Back to the Future moment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34414128)

I had a similar experience at the International Broadcasting Convention in I think the year 2007. It was a Philips glasses-less 3D television, I think showing birds or something flying up to me and mountains in the far distance.

The effect it had on me was like the first time I ever heard a compact disc. It was futuristic in a Back to the Future way and I stood there with my jaw hanging open for a few minutes.

The gentleman from Philips explained how it worked to me but I've too much alcohol in me to be arsed to type it all up now.

oh great (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413560)

porn is 3d's killer app, and apple will ban it.

Accuracy is the killer (3, Informative)

Namarrgon (105036) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413604)

Don't expect this to come to your local cinema any time soon.

To project a movie with 2K horizontal resolution per eye on a 15m screen you'd need ripples to be no more than 15mm wide. You'd have to focus each pixel somewhere along a quarter section of that, 3.75mm. Assume 20 people seated every 1m, with each persons' eyes separated by about 65mm, that means to bounce a pixel off the ripple at a specific eye you'd need to divide that 3.75mm into 308 subdivisions of about 12 microns each.

This is over 2000 ppi resolution, projected across a 15m screen by a projector over 30m away. If the imaging device were to do that directly it'd have to have a resolution of 1.25M pixels horizontally, but you'd probably have a parallax barrier to direct the light. If you had something capable of head-tracking each person on each row and adjusting views individually, each of the parallax barrier sets (you'd need one set per viewer, along with individual optics to go with it) would need to be capable of nanometre-precise positioning. It might be possible to use a single, extra-fine set of tens of thousands of individually-mobile, variable-width parallax barriers, but we'd probably start hitting quantum effects at this point :-)

Alternatively, if people held their heads very still, you could use a nano-scaled lenticular prism with variable-length ripples on your screen and precalculated, radial, fixed seating positions, but I suspect they'd just opt for the glasses instead.

Projecting into the observer's eyes (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413620)

The proposed method tracks the location of the observer's eyes and projects the images straight into their eyes. I'll take a pass, thank you.

Only one viewer? (2)

k2backhoe (1092067) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413632)

As I read the patent claims, it appears that in order to require no eyeglasses and to allow the observer to be located anywhere relative to the screen, the 3D effect will only work with one observer. No claims allow multiple, position-independent viewers. That makes sense from a physics and optics point of view, but it is disappointing.

fuck apple (1)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413696)

Just another wall street gang of douchebags.

Nintendo peeps (2)

turbclnt (1776692) | more than 3 years ago | (#34413864)

Yeah, so Nintendo demoed this already at E3 last year [nintendo.com] , but I'm sure like everything else, all the fanbois will forget that other people already came up with the cool tech, and Apple is yet again just ripping it off. Somehow, Apple will once again be touted as the most innovative rainbow ponies and gumdrops company ever (I'm sure of it).
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