baltimoresun.com

« Top 10 reasons I'm not doing a Top 10 "year in tech" blog post | Main | Another Millenial Media competitor bought for hundreds of millions »

January 4, 2010

The 3D tech behind the rumored Apple "iSlate" tablet?

Welcome! Follow BaltTech on Twitter at @GusSent!

Apple3Dimage.gif 

Some of the recent reports that predict Apple will launch some type of "tablet PC" next month have mentioned that the long-rumored device will have 3D graphics.

So what does "3D graphics" really mean and how could it be implemented? I found a recently-released patent filing which I traced back to Apple (#20090303231, Dec. 10, 2009) and which discusses in great detail a "touch screen device, method and graphical user interface for manipulating three-dimensional virtual objects." If Apple chooses to incorporate some of the features it outlines in this patent filing, it could essentially mean that that user-interaction experience for the iPhone or a potential "Tablet" will be markedly different in some respects than the iPhone interface we're currently using. (The image above is taken from Apple's patent filing.)

According to documents filed with the USPTO, Apple obtained the rights to this patent application from three French citizens: Fabrice Robinet, Thomas Goossens, and Alexandre Moha. The inventors assigned the patent to Apple on Sept. 29, 2008. It's not clear if those citizens are Apple employees, per se. (Update: Actually, Mr. Moha is a product and engineering manager at Apple, per his LinkedIn profile; Mr. Robinet is a software engineer at Apple, again, per LinkedIn, and Mr. Goossens is an Apple software engineer (thanks to Baltimore's Bill Mill for digging up Goossens!) Regardless, searches under Apple's name in the patents database doesn't retrieve this patent, because the names of the original French inventors are still on it. (I wonder why that is? Hmmm. :-)

In patent filings, companies typically lay out a current problem or hurdle in a field of technology which they then propose, to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, that their new innovation will address.

In this case, the patent application states: "...[T]here is a need for electronic devices with touch screen displays that provide more transparent and intuitive user interfaces for navigating in three dimensional virtual spaces and manipulating three dimensional objects in these virtual spaces."

So, what is the essence of this patent filing and Apple's interest in it? Let me try and distill it for you:

*) This patent filing is meant to cover the implementation of three-dimensional image-handling on different types of devices, including multi-touch sensitive tablets.

*) The 3D images, or "virtual objects," that can be generated include an icon, a virtual game object or a virtual game character. Basically, your icons and characters on this device will have a three-dimensional quality in a two-dimensional space, which could lead to novel ways of interacting with the device.

Perhaps this - 3D graphics -- is the future of Apple's interfaces for its portable multi-function devices. What do you think?

 


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:11 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, West Coast
        

Comments

Apple is so innovative and new. whatever they do i can guarantee the islate will be a big hit

A book is a 3 dimensional object. So is a newspaper, magazine, phone book or any other document with more than one page. I guess a 3D graphics interface would be a good idea if one wishes to simulate any or all of these real objects with an electronic device in a really cool way.

The functionality implied by this patent application may be behind some of the comments made by quasi-insiders recently regarding the anticipated Apple slate: surprising, unexpected, dazzling, envelope-expanding, mind-boggling, jaw-dropping, stunning. If true this means that an entirely new wave of 3D-capable apps is about to explode upon us ...

This is indeed a great finding.

I have a feeling that Apple won't just announce a Tablet with 3D UI but also a new mobile OS 4.0 for iPhone, Touch and the new Tablet.

It would make sense for Apple to unify the interface of all it's mobile products to maintain user experience consistency.

I don't doubt the device will be a good product and should have a lot of content on it, but will people be willing to pay $800 for it. There are so many consumers that think even a $350 netbook is expensive and are expecting tablets to cost $200 which is ridiculous. The Apple tablet will have to offer some mighty compelling features to get the cheapsters to open their wallets. They'd just as soon wait for a low-cost Android tablet and say it's good enough.

But does Apple make stuff for the "cheapsters"? I think not. -gs

What if Apple were to combine a forward facing webcam with facial recognition technology (like in iPhoto). The camera could sense when someone is looking at the screen, and then figure out where they are (like HP's web cams do). Then using some sort of head-tracking system, it could simulate a 3D experience, like these researchers have done using a Wii remote.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd3-eiid-Uw

Not only could it be included on a tablet, but also supported on any of the iMacs or Macbooks with built in isight cameras.

This "Immersive Touch" UI has been done for years with Edusim:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVFsxev-2sk

... Immersive Touch is starting to come into its own finally.

This post got mentioned by MacRumors!

http://www.macrumors.com/2010/01/05/apple-patent-application-points-to-3d-multi-touch-manipulation/

...And Gizmodo and Engadget and 9to5Mac... :-) -gs

hopefully they do end up using this technology on their tablet.

@bmaltais, Apple have released a new iPhone OS every year and would definitely make the iphone act in the same way as the tablet.

@MikeWise, this was the same conclusion I came to in my post on the subject. Finally we will have a user facing camera for iChat.

@chip, if you see the video involving the wiimote posted by Mike then you will understand the kind of 3D this will be - not in a traditional sense like at the cinema with Avatar. This is very different, no glasses required (but only works for a single user).

Can you also see if there is such a thing as an iRing out there. I'm thinking that a bluetooth enabled, three accellorometer device would be the bee's knees when it come to manipulating the 3D space

The actual thing that this patent is claiming is not "3d on a tablet" generally, but a specific touch gesture sequence which is described in claim #1 (the other claims just cover variations on what the icons/objects are, and what kind of device it is, etc.)

"...detecting a first finger gesture on a first three-dimensional virtual object... and in response... displaying an animated transition from the first perspective to a second perspective... wherein the animated transition includes enlarging and substantially centering the first... object... in the second perspective... wherein the second perspective is different from the first perspective. "

Apple has lots of engineers doing R&D and coming up with ideas. If it is able to patent any of these ideas, of course it will, regardless of whether it plans to use them in an actual product.

That Apple has guys coming up with ideas involving touchscreen displays isn't suprising (given the iPhone), and doesn't mean a tablet is in the works, or an iPhone with 3d, though both are certainly possible and would be neat products.

I expect to be surprised on January 26. If Apple is consistent with its past innovations, you can expect all existing paragigms to be blown away. A 3-D interface as described will likely send a lot of people, including myself, to the nearest Apple store to buy the gizmo, the cost being irrelevant. Don't forget that I paid 2000$ for a Mac Classic in 1992. So 800$ for the iSlate is really cheap.

Recent patents also show a 'smart' frame for a tablet where the frame actually acts as controller and buttons. See the patent, pics and article at http://appleislate.com

Recent patents also show a 'smart' frame for a tablet where the frame actually acts as controller and buttons. See the patent, pics and article at http://appleislate.com

I think the SixthSense technology that uses a webcam and projector and smartphone to create a projected user interface is much more revolutionary than a tablet computer with a 3D interface on screen. Plus, SixthSense is cheaper and will soon be open source. More about SixthSense here:
http://www.pranavmistry.com/projects/sixthsense/

This two-handed interface may be intended as a WOWeye-candy UI to consumers (as first appeared in Mobius in the SGI-UNIX word of 1996?) and of mobile gaming interest, but it also could be of interest to thin-client medical clinicians, once there's enough GPU power, which is critical.
Game-style low-poly mapping will be the next skills in demand for UI designers, the because the user will float through the universe of their data and file mgmnt systems.

"What do you think?"

If you really want to know: meh.

There are so many consumers that think even a $350 netbook is expensive and are expecting tablets to cost $200 which is ridiculous I think the SixthSense technology that uses a webcam and projector and smartphone to create a projected user interface is much more revolutionary than a tablet computer with a 3D interface on screen.Advanced Technology

dell has lots of engineers doing R&D and coming up with ideas. If it is able to patent any of these ideas, of course it will, regardless of whether it plans to use them in an actual product.

I think the SixthSense technology that uses a webcam and projector and smartphone to create a projected user interface is much more revolutionary than a tablet computer with a 3D interface on screen. Plus, SixthSense is cheaper and will soon be open source.

Looking back, you guys were kind of far off--but not exactly way off.

3D? New technology? Innovation?

They ended up releasing an ipod touch with a bigger screen... and still people bought it..! Fark!

Looking back, you guys were kind of far off--but not exactly way off.

you guy's weren't to far off with this. Far but not that far. Great stuff!

Hm, once Apple will give us Time Machine or awesome spaceship.. 3D isn't popular, but it's very old technology

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Sign up for FREE business alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for Business text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Charm City Current
Stay connected