Apple gets no-glasses 3D patent

Apple has been granted a patent for an autostereoscopic system of 3D viewing, in other words, 3D without the glasses a la the Nintendo 3DS. There are plenty of companies interested in 3D display technology, given that it’s the latest craze, and getting rid of the goofy glasses is a major boon. Yesterday, we heard news of the Cowon 3D portable media player with its glasses-free three dimensional display.

Apple notes in the patent that both active and passive 3D glasses “have not met with widespread acceptance because observers generally do not like to wear equipment over their eyes.”

“In addition, such approaches are impractical, and essentially unworkable, for projecting a 3D image to one or more casual passersby, to a group of collaborators, or to an entire audience such as when individuated projections are desired.”

Yes, not only is Apple planning to do away with the specs, but also build a system whereby multiple viewers can watch a display and all enjoy three dimensions, whatever angle they’re sitting at.

According to C-net, the technology would work by having each pixel projected onto a reflective, textured surface, which is sent into a viewer’s left and right eye separately, producing the 3D illusion. The system will apparently sense the location of every viewer’s eyes, to allow for a viewing audience, not just an individual.

It sounds like very smart stuff, but just because Apple has filed the patent, doesn’t mean that its 3D viewing system is around the corner. Whether it will be realised, or this is just a piece of patent protection which Apple thinks might come in useful one day at a long shot, only time will tell.