(Phys.org) —Apple Inc. has applied for a patent on an interactive hologram device. In its application, the maker of iPhones, iPads and other devices, describes a new device that could project a holographic 3D image into a small space—the image projected could then be manipulated using human hands, responding to swipes, squeezing, etc.
Apple has not made any announcements regarding the interactive display system, but the patent filing makes clear that the company is serious about funding research into holographic display devices. The proposed device described in the application would use already existing technology in new ways. The listed inventors, Christoph Krah and Marduke Yousefpor propose a three part design: a 3D display system, an optical based system that translates 2D images to 3D, and sensors to read hand movements. All of the components would of course connect to a central control mechanism that together would create the illusion of a three dimensional object hovering over a base, that responds to human manipulation.
One item of note, the image that is projected is created digitally—it's not simply the reflection of a real object as has been done with other similar systems. It would be created using lasers sent into a medium such as a crystal so that it could be seen by the human eye. Non-linear imagery would be situated between two parabolic mirrors with the main image reflected off the upper mirror towards the lower mirror—the final images would eventually pass out through a hole. Lasers would also be used to follow hand movements, allowing for precise gesture control. All of the data would be controlled by a central system, which is not described in the application. The result would be what the Apple team describes as "hologram-like illusions."
The application has only recently come to light, though the submission date indicates it was originally filed in October of 2012. Whether Apple has been pursuing the project is unknown, though it appears likely as Microsoft, Amazon and other competitors have made clear their intentions to build a similar device. If all goes well, consumers might wind up with such devices on smartphones or tablet computers in the not too distant future, making interactions with such devices far more immersive.