Apple may be looking to extend the viewing experience beyond your standard laptop or smartphone display and into the world around you. The company recently filed a patent for a projector that can be built directly into future MacBooks, iPhones or iPads—a move that echoes similar claims made by Microsoft in recent weeks.
Apple’s patent describes a projector that could either project an image on to another surface or create a holographic image by projecting content on to the air in front of the device. Apple’s invention refers to an energy efficient projector that could act as a standalone accessory or as a system built in to future laptops, smartphones or tablets.
The patent’s images depict a projector built in to the keyboard deck area of the laptop, which would integrate with the notebook’s display to depict those same images or video on to a nearby surface. This is very similar to Microsoft’s recent patent which described a projector system that would integrate into a laptop’s bottom half and depict images on surfaces in front of the notebook. Microsoft’s patent differs from Apple’s in that in references a laptop with a transparent display that could be coupled with a heads-up display.
The idea of attaching projectors to mobile devices is nothing new as Samsung released the Galaxy Beam, an Android handset with a built-in projector, in 2012. However, Apple's patent promises to display images in mid-air as well as off of a wall.
There’s no telling if this patent will actually see the light of day, but it’s just another indication that perceptual computing could play a large role in future laptops, smartphones and tablets. Not only are major companies such as Apple and Microsoft exploring image projection systems, but device manufacturers will soon integrate motion sensor cameras such as the Leap Motion directly into laptops.