There have been a lot of pico-projector developments in the last couple of years. Several firms have produced developer versions of matchbox sized, or even smaller, projectors in full colour. Most notably a company called Microvison, although Japanese firms I have worked with already have smaller and better versions of this hardware up and running.
Patents Apple filed back in June 2009 gave us the hint that they may have more than a passing interest in this technology. (Links with concept shots and a video are at the bottom of this news piece.)
Apple’s latest patent application seems to go the next step and details ways that a projector could be shared simultaneously by several devices over a network. With advances in networking speeds for video, and miniaturised laser projection systems, it’s entirely possible this kind of device could be squeezed into an iPhone eventually.
What Apple’s patent basically says is as follows: The projector could be integrated into a dedicated remote controller associated with the projection system, or it could be offered in an auxiliary client device such as an iPhone, iPod touch, or laptop.
Of course, exactly what Apple will do with this remains a mystery. In the pictures filed with the patent, and on the links provided below, there is what appears to be a small device attached to a games console beaming gaming action onto a wall Don’t be fooled though, this is stock imagery from Microvision who make PicoProjectors, and not Apple’s own images.
Could this be the next big iPhone hardware development though?
It’s unlikely that we’ll see a projector this year in an iPhone. Particularly with the rumoured production problems Apple seems to have had simply getting stills cameras into their devices over the past 12 months. More likely we’ll see it as a peripheral for the iPad, iPhone and iPod first.
Apple files patent for iPhone projection in June 2009 : [patentlyapple.com]
Updated Patent application reported today by Patently Apple : [maximumpc.com]
Microvision : [microvision.com]