back to article Apple patent pokes at holographic iPhone screen

Future Apple iPhone and iPad handsets could sport holographic screens, if a company patent filing comes to fruition. An application posted Thursday by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) details a display system which would use projection hardware and parabolic lenses to create 3D interfaces. The filing suggests that …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least when Apple do stuff they do it right and usually first to do it right - i.e. their fingerprint sensor is great - the one used by others is poor in comparison.

    1. M Gale

      The fingerprint sensor that also works with nipples and knob-ends?

      That fingerprint sensor?

      1. Graham Marsden

        @M Gale

        The voice of experience??

        1. M Gale

          Re: @M Gale

          Don't you know it, sweetie.


  2. frank ly

    Prior art

    Paramount has lots of prior art in Star Trek TNG.

  3. Big_Ted

    How ? ? ?

    How can they patent something that doesn't exist ?

    OK if they have a working model then fine they deserve a patent but this is a patent for something that might exist in the future.

    On this basis I should be able to patent anything I can dream up without a real proof of possible manufacture.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How ? ? ?

      This is not a real patent as you say because they don't have a working model. This is an Apple patent, one designed to make money off the R&D of others.

    2. Grikath

      Re: How ? ? ?

      That, my man, is because of the USPTO, which simply accepts anything written on a napkin if it comes from the Right Companies.

      Now if Apple would have filed in Europa and Asia as well, they might be on to something, but stuff like this would end up in the Circular File right away there. As it is, this is simply one of their usual "we'll file it, just in case someone else figures it out and markets it here, so we can sue later on grounds of this "patent".

      And people wonder why an increasing number of tech companies/manufacturers have stopped bothering with the US altogether...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How ? ? ?

        There's two ways to patent this, you can patent "how to build a holographic screen" and "how to implement a user interface for a holographic screen". Which do you think Apple is likely to be working on?

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: How ? ? ?

        "That, my man, is because of the USPTO, which simply accepts anything written on a napkin if it comes from the Right Companies."

        Or indeed, the Wrong Companies. I believe the law is that they'll accept anything written on a napkin, period. The effect, as we can all see, is that patent protection is increasingly hard to achieve in the US for genuine inventions. Ironically, this probably means the current patent system in the US actually violates the consitutional demand for such a system to exist.

        One day, someone will try to argue that either in court or in Congress and the whole house of cards will come down.

  4. M Gale

    Sega Hologram?

    Granted it doesn't have the user tracking, but it does have everything else.

    Anybody old enough to have been in an arcade when these machines were doing the rounds will remember the weird eye-bending pop-up effect it achieves. Neat to look at, but your eyes will hate you if you try to put your hand through the apparent image.

    Also the same effect as seen in a bunch of executive toys where you stick an object between two curved mirrors, and the object appears to float in the middle of an aperture at the top of the toy.

  5. dbhh


    I researched and created computer generated holograms at university 14 years ago. Many others before and since have advanced this field.

    There is a whole Wikipedia article about it, full of prior art

    And Apple can fucking patent it? I give up.

    1. ThomH

      Re: Research

      Do we know that they can yet though? I notice that the story refers to a filed patent and the linked US government web site refers to it as a "United States Patent Application".

      I don't pay that much attention but surely this is the stage where people with prior art are meant to come forward and say so?

      Of course it's the US patent office, so, yeah, they'll get the patent regardless.

    2. PsychicMonkey

      Re: Research

      because it's on "a mobile device", didn't you know that renders all prior art invalid....

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Research

        >because it's on "a mobile device"

        Who said it was for a mobile device? From the Patent App:

        Growing interest in the applications of 3D viewing is evident not only in the field of computer graphics but also in a wide variety of other environments such as education, medical diagnostics, biomechanical engineering, etc.

        Looks like workstation stuff to me.

  6. malle-herbert

    Help me Obi-wan Kenobi...

    You're my only hope !

  7. poopypants

    And here's one from Korea

    Not to mention all the prior art:

  8. Mr_Bungle

    Apple 'engineers' patent more fairy-tale drek.

    Standard Apple Patent -

    There is this thing, in conjunction with a doo-dad, which might make it possible to do anything anyone actually invents in the future.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple 'engineers' patent more fairy-tale drek.

      Ah yes, the standard Apple patent designed to make money from others R&D.

  9. andreas koch
    Thumb Up

    Oh wow.

    Just think of how this is going to get blown out of proportion as soon as it's been through a few fanboi tech-savvy creative artists-forums: It'll be a feature of the iPhone 6W (the iWatch-wristphone), it'll project imax (why else would they call the cinema like that?) films in 4k x 2k including 8.2 channel THX in a virtual size of 45' diameter and 12' high around you, and it will make Siri interact with you not only visually but also orally. It also obviously has solved the battery time problem of the iWatch, since it clearly states 46 hours of running time on the drawing (in the top. left of the Z [stands for "Zeit", time in German], there's the number 46. What else could it mean? There. Proof.). There'll be videos about it. Watch to the end for the features!


    ha. sniggersnigger. gnrrrz . . . Bruhahahaha!

    1. g e

      Re: Oh wow.

      I'm not so sure the W stands for 'Wristwatch'...

  10. David Webb

    X Step Programme

    Step 1) Watch a Sci-Fi Movie or TV show

    Step 2) Write down the futuristic technology shown

    Step 3) Make a vague patent on the technology shown on the TV show

    Step 4) Sue anyone in the future who actually manages to make the stuff actually possible

    I'm off to patent "method for using voice activated system on mobile device to transparently obtain information from another device (computer) or service (internet)" ala "Computer, search all my porn files on my desktops porn folder and display the newest obtained on my bedrooms television"

    The question is though, can you patent ideas and concepts? 3D holographic displays have existed since (at least) the 70's as an idea/concept, so if Apple are trying to simply patent an idea/concept which already exists then shouldn't Lucasarts (now Disney) own the patent (or whoever actually has prior art, though not sure Asmiov/Clarke can file a patent).

    1. Fluffy Bunny

      Re: X Step Programme

      You can't file a patent if you're dead. On the other hand, I can see a patent coming along: "A method by which dead people can file a patent".

  11. jjk

    I've seen that before...

    While this has nothing to do with holography, the drawing looks suspiciously like an existing toy (which creates the illusion of an object floating in mid-air.

  12. Tom 7 Silver badge

    A patent for the bleeding obvious

    but on a 3D mobile device.

    Concatenation is innovation these days!

  13. Frankee Llonnygog

    You lot remind me of Mary Whitehouse

    "I haven't watched this television program but it's disgusting and should be banned"

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: You lot remind me of Mary Whitehouse

      Exactly. I came into this thread in the hope that smarter Reg readers would have read the patent and would help me understand the principle upon which it is based.... instead it's the usual knee-jerk reactions from people who haven't read the patent.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Alan Denman

    Anti innovation again,

    So all those current interactive 3D games belong to Apple as soon as they move to more fuller 3D.

    DO you really think this is an invention when it simply bans progress.

    I can see what they are getting at, they will expensively rent out the right to write software on their platform.

    Elsewhere game development has to stop !


    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Anti innovation again,

      People are free to use parallax systems, volumatriuc systems, VR systems or stereoscopic systems for 3D games... this system is none of the above. I was hoping someone here would be able to explain how it works for me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anti innovation again,

        Dave, the problem is that no one knows how it works because it has not been built. All anyone can say is this is how it MIGHT work which is typical of many Apple patents where they have not built a working model.

        It is not a real patent (one with a working model to back it), just one to either stop anyone else doing anything about it or make money off other companies R&D.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Anti innovation again,

          They do tend to use the the 'might' a lot, but I thought that was just to cover any loopholes (e.g it matters not if a screen is CRT, LCD, IPS, OLED etc).

          As far as I can work it out, it has something in common with a camera obscura...then it starts using equations... eek.

          1. Fluffy Bunny

            Re: Anti innovation again,

            Don't bother working the patent out. Get them to demonstrate the working prototype. A patent has to be feasible, which means either obvious, or provide a working prototype.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love how half the people here are screaming bloody murder because Apple have patented something they can't possibly make, and the other half are screaming bloody murder because Apple have patented something so simple it's self-evident. And nobody has the slightest clue what a patent is actually for in the first place!

    What a way to run a railroad.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Application description

      Trying to read the engineering through the legalese in the patent application, it seem that Apple have "invented" a dual display for 3-D. The first one is in charge of the proper 3-D display, and the second one is a mirrored version of the first (or at least sensors of manipulations in a separate volume of space) that the user can poke to make the display change. It's not at all clear to me why you'd have a secondary display as it kind-of makes the primary one redundant - perhaps the resolution on the primary one will be greater.

      Personally, it still smacks of taking existing stuff and slapping them together in an obvious manner (perhaps non-obvious in that they don't really need the primary display, so it's a bit of a waste of time!). There are already 3-D displays, and there are (probably) already sensors that can tell you where a fingertip is in a space (certainly can look at a hand, isn't that what Kinect can do? And what about the various VR/Glove combinations). Couple that with lots of Science-Fiction films and it is blindingly obvious to slap them together to make them interact and the only surprise is that no-one has made a commercial product that I know of (not that I've looked). One would hope that on examination, this patent is either chucked out or scoped right down to be so narrow it is trivial to avoid infringement.

  17. jubtastic1

    Very old school tech

    The old parabolic mirrors making something appear to float in the air thing, given the limitations of this design, tiny rendering area compared to the size of the device and limited viewing angles, this looks more like it would be used for an indicator or control interface than a main display.

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