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Apple patents glasses-free, multiviewer 3-D

Apple now holds a patent for an auto-stereoscopic 3-D projection system. The patent states the objective to provide "highly effective, practical, efficient, uncomplicated and inexpensive auto-stereoscopic 3-D displays that allow the observer complete and unencumbered freedom of movement."

Some pundits have noted that 3-D TV may come first to mobile screens where auto-stereoscopic displays will debut. Apple claims that its solution is an improvement over volumetric displays and other auto-stereoscopic schemes. Its strategy is to track the viewers’ position and use that data to project pixels onto a projection screen with a “predetermined angularly responsive reflective surface function.” The idea is that each pixel is aimed at a curved surface to reflect onto the right or left eye and, as the viewer moves in relationship to the screen, a tracking sensor captures the new “view,” which then causes the projection angle to change. The patent also implies that Apple is developing a way for the user to interact with the display by manipulating the 3-D projections.

Apple, however, will most definitely not be the first to launch an actual 3-D mobile phone. Sharp has already announced it will unveil a smart phone with 3-D display by the end of the year. And, Taiwanese smart phone manufacturer HTC is also planning to launch an Android-based phone with 3-D display within a year. HTC already has launched a smart phone (HTC HD7) with 3-D software, but the upcoming phones would most likely embed true 3-D displays.