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Apple Patents Glasses-Free 3D Projection System

It was bound to happen eventually: Apple is now dipping into the emerging 3D market. But don't get too excited just yet, as 3D won't be incorporated into any iOS device anytime soon. In fact, Apple has just been granted a patent on a system that projects an "auto-stereoscopic" 3D image which doesn't require annoying, headache-triggering glasses.

Now we're talking.

Called "Three-dimensional display system," the primary goal of the patent is to provide a "highly effective, practical, efficient, uncomplicated, and inexpensive auto-stereoscopic 3D displays that allow the observer complete and unencumbered freedom of movement."

And apparently it does just that. The new patent allows multiple people to view the 3D content simultaneously no matter where they are in the room. As each viewer moves from one position to another, a tracking sensor keeps record of their location, projecting a custom view by beaming a split image onto a textured, reflective screen. The separate images are then reflected back into the targeted eyeball, thus creating an un-altered 3D image in any location at any angle.

In addition to freely viewing 3D content, the projector will also allow viewers to interact by manipulating 3D projections. There was also mention in the patent of a "holographic acceleration" feature, the ability to display an image that can "move relative to the observer correspondingly faster than the observer's actual movement or displacement." The actual level of acceleration is determined by a "selected factor."

The patent goes on to explain how the system different than other auto-stereoscopic projects such as volumetric displays which allegedly present images that "appear ghosted or transparent." The parallax barrier method, according to the patent, typically requires the observer to remain stationary in one location. Dynamically presented holographic images require "far greater computational ability and bandwidth than is generally required for [other auto-stereoscopic displays] real time and at commercially acceptable costs," the patent said.

It also explains why an auto-stereoscopic projector is really needed. "Because observers generally do not like to wear equipment over their eyes," it reads. "In addition, such approaches are impractical, and essentially unworkable, for projecting a 3D image to one or more casual passersby, to a group of collaborators, or to an entire audience such as when individuated projections are desired."

To read more about apple's Three-dimensional display system, head here.