Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has received a patent for a “desk-free” computer that would contain a minimal number of wires and which uses a projection screen as its primary form of visual output, according to Apple Insider. Though the drawings seem to resemble some sort of device from a futuristic science fiction novel, the patent is very real, and it may become the basis for an Apple device in the coming years.
The key to Apple’s desk-free computer is that it would offer a level of portability never before seen in a computing device. Implements such as a keyboard or a mouse would be connected without wires, eliminating the mess and the bulkiness of carrying around the peripherals and hookup wires. Apple Insider reports that with a visual projector, there would be no traditional screen. Instead, the main unit — a small box — would be placed on a surface, and the projector would direct itself at a nearby wall, which would act as a screen. There would also apparently be no need for conventional battery charging, as the device would use inductive charging or integrated batteries to eliminate the need to hunt for an outlet every few hours.
And don’t think that Apple’s device is similar to current projectors, which use a prescribed stream of pixels from a DVD or a source screen and output light patterns. Such devices must be manually controlled in order to obtain the correct resolution and focus, and though with careful management they are very useful, they require specific conditions in order to function optimally.
Apple’s projector would integrate data from sensors in order to create the optimal image in terms of size, pixellation, and color. If the surface onto which it was projecting was not perfectly smooth or it was darker than average, the system in the projector would automatically correct for the differences. An ambient light sensor and a depth sensor both would contribute to its adjustment process, according to the patent filing, seen by Apple Insider.
In addition, the projector would account for angled surfaces. A conventional projector always outputs the same shape (barring manually controlled changes), thus producing a rectangle or a square of a certain ratio. The Apple device in the patent can actually change the ratio of the projection output depending on the angle of the box to a surface, thus projecting a rectangle if the surface were more slanted. From the viewer’s perspective, this would make the image appear to be of the same size and the proper proportions even when being seen from an angle.
The exact future of the device is uncertain, Apple Insider reports. While today’s technology would allow many of the features described to be developed, the price may be overly prohibitive to the vast majority of potential users. There is also the question of what sort of demand the system may garner, especially considering the market for Macbook Air and the desire not to cannibalize from other Apple products. Either way, the patent is certainly something for Apple to get excited about, even if a product based off it is still years away.