Apple patent reveals iOS devices with integrated projectors

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A patent showed up online today bearing Apple’s name and showing what many might consider to be an exciting idea. In essence, it’s an iDevice with a built in projector.

“In one embodiment, electronic devices each may include a projector that produces a projected display and a camera that detects gestures made with respect to the projected displays. The electronic devices may interpret gestures on the projected displays to identify image sharing commands for sharing images between the projected displays. The electronic devices may be connected through a communication link that allows the electronic devices to share image data for producing images on any of the projected displays included within the shared workspace.”

Apple patents absolutely everything its engineers think of, regardless of whether it makes its way to a finished product. Some make me genuinely excited. Others I stick in the “let’s hope Apple never makes this” bin. This fits in the latter of those categories. The idea of having a projector constantly available isn’t my problem here. I can imagine for some people, that would be fantastic. But there are a couple of serious problems with making it readily available to everyone.

Firstly, I can’t imaging that a large majority of people will want to use it that often. Think of your typical iPhone user: 20% of the time they’re on Facebook, sometimes gaming, texting, browsing, and perhaps watching a movie when on a long commute. Of all those, movie watching and gaming are the only two that would benefit from a projector. But given the choice, wouldn’t anyone rather use a large, widescreen HDTV than project a small, low quality image on to a wall?

Secondly: Presuming it’s built in to an iPhone, it’s going to make that phone so much thicker than is reasonably practicable. Not only does it need to have room enough for the projection lens and light source, but also, the extra battery power required to make it last long enough without dying. And what if the inevitable happens and the projection light starts to fade as all projectors do? Could Apple make it easy to replace? iPhones have never even allowed users to swap batteries out, let alone lights for pico projectors.

I get the novelty factor would be awesome. But the excitement would soon wear, and you’re left with a feature that you barely use and a phone that’s so fat you’d rather leave it on your table at home than carry it around.

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