Patent Reveals Apple’s Plan To Launch Future iOS Devices With Built-In Pico Projectors

BY Rounak Jain

Published 13 Aug 2011

Pico Projectors in Future iOS devices?

A recently filed patent application by Apple reveals the company’s plans to integrate mini or pico-like projectors into its devices in the future.

There have been a number of indications in the past about this, the latest one being Apple’s registration of the domain, first reported by MacRumors.

According to the patent, these projectors are not just for displaying images, videos and text, but also for collaborating with other devices and creating shared workspaces. In simple language this means that two or more devices equipped with this projector would create a contiguous display with a possibility of interaction between the two devices via gestures.

The patent, published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on August 11th, is titled “Projected Display Shared Workspaces”. It goes into extreme detail describing various components of the setup – the projector, cameras, RFID chips and GPS. Currently, the closest Apple devices have come to this idea is AirPlay, where pictures and video can be streamed over the air to large displays, of course through an Apple TV.

Projected displays would be great for viewing content that is too large to view on small screens. The projector, as described in the patent, in some cases would be internal while in case of other devices like MacBooks is shown as an external accessory. What excites us however is the capability of these devices to create a collaborative workspace and communicate with each other through gestures, RFID and GPS chips and wireless technology.

Unified Display

The mention of a camera, as you might have guessed, is for gesture recognition. The patent takes the example of image sharing between two devices and illustrates how gestures could be used to facilitate communication amongst devices. These gestures could be detected by a camera or a touchscreen. For instance, a flick could transfer an image from one projected display to another, clenching of the fist can serve as a command to copy an image or an object.


You might have seen how a physical object can obstruct light coming from a projector. Apple plans to use these shadows and silhouettes as additional ways to detect actions from a user or any external object for that matter. These shadows would be detected by a camera and interpreted by advanced image processing technology residing on the devices. One obvious use of this would be while giving presentations, where a simple sway of your hand could let you move onto the next slide.

The combination of a projector and camera isn’t new though, Pravin Mistry demonstrated something very similar at a TED Conference back in 2009.

The whole idea of the patent seems very futuristic, and it indeed is. Pico projectors are in its nascent stage, and according to DigiTimes’ manufacturing sources these projectors currently face problems such as large power consumption, weak lumen rate and poor image quality. This makes it an unlikely addition to iPhone models until 2013.

What’s your take on the patent? Kinect like gaming or gesture driven presentations?

[USPTO via Patently Apple]