Head tracking is at the core of Apple's latest 3D patent, prosaically entitled "Systems and Methods for Adjusting a Display Based on the User's Position". We say 'latest' patent because Apple has been investigating 3D interfaces for some time. Almost exactly one year ago, for example, The Reg reported on an Apple patent filing entitled "Multi-Dimensional Desktop". That filing, however, didn't benefit from head-tracking, and the user interface that it described was merely a 2D representation of a 3D space - the objects in it maintained their spatial relationships no matter where your head was.
Today, you view a window-filled display from the center, but...
...in the future you may only need to tilt your head to see the same windows in a different spatial relationship.
Thursday's patent - which was originally submitted in June 2008 - goes much further. It creates an immersive 3D representation of a space complete with objects that can be either within that space or extend beyond it and appear to the user to be "outside" the display - that is, closer to the user than is the physical surface of the display itself.
And unlike in Lee's Carnegie Mellon video, the user does not necessarily need to wear or be equipped with some sort of signal-generating or receiving device. As the filing states in pure patentese, "The sensing mechanism may be operative to detect the user's position using any suitable sensing approach, including for example optically (e.g., using a camera or lens), from emitted invisible radiation (e.g., using an IR or UV sensitive apparatus), electromagnetic fields, or any other suitable approach."
The inclusion of a camera among those possible sensing devices leads to a second trick beyond modifying displayed objects' spatial relationships: moving images of elements of the user's environment into the display itself.
3D charts may actually have a function other than decoration...
...if you can easily examine them from different angles
As the filing puts it, the system "may detect the user's environment and map the detected environment to the displayed objects." Doing so, the system could, for example, display a reflective object with the user's environment reflected upon it.
In addition, a database of object-oriented metadata could prompt the system to perform transformations upon a recognized camera-viewed object based on predetermined parameters. You could, for example, instruct your computer that when it recognized you it should perform a mild Gaussian blur to smooth your wrinkles, apply a translucent color=#E7B9A0 layer to give your skin a just-back-from-the-islands glow, then display your immersive 3D software self to your actual 3D liveware self as an onscreen avatar with digitally enhanced wholesomeness. ®
Apple seeks patent on reality
Really? I have to move my head?
Is it just me, or does this seem like it'd make computing a lot more active than I really need. Plus it'd be awfully hard when I've got a powerful slouch on, as I'd be looking at the underside of all my windows...
Can't wait for Apple to get sued for some neck injury.
So for those that haven't been keeping up with Apple and how things work:
a) its been done before
b) its totally obvious
c) its purely about software.
so its invalid as a patent three times over?
None of which will prevent the US patent office attempting to grant the patent and put back the evolution of UIs, prevent innovation and hand Apple a wodge of cash.
I hope Apple have got Jonny Lee on board with this, otherwise their patent would largely be a rip-off of his work!
Whoopee fuck. Another patent squat.
A similar display technology
was described in Atomic MPC magazine back in 2004 when they did a feature on 3D display technologies. They described each kind of technology in detail, then shot it to pieces by pointing out the ways it would fail.
For head-tracking 3D technology, they pointed out that the screen would display correctly for only one person at a time - the person whose head was being tracked by the system. Too bad if you have a client seated next to you when you're showing them your new whiz-bang interface that will make their application the best thing since sliced bread.
All of the 3D display technologies mooted so far all have at least one fatal flaw. You have to wear some cumbersome glasses/headgear; or the depth only works for one person at a time; or the viewer has to be at an exact distance from the display surface; or the screen needs to be at a ridiculously high resolution. It will be a long time before we get real 3D displays, and Apple certainly aren't at the forefront of it, instead simply continuing their tradition of ripping off other people's ideas and exploiting the failed US patent system to steal them.