Apple Researching Combined 2D/3D Glassesless Displays

Apple is looking into a way to provide both 3D and 2D images from the same display, without requiring any special ocular equipment like 3D glasses, according to a new patent application (via AppleInsider). The display would use gaze-tracking to serve specific images to viewers, and would be able to actually provide different images to multiple viewers at the same time.

The display tech would use multiple layers to provide specific, differing output to either of a viewer’s left and right eyes, which would make 3D image display possible. It does so by tracking eye position via a built-in image sensor; we’ve seen eye-tracking tech come to market to enable things like on-screen control. Nintendo’s latest 3DS revision also does offer some degree of gaze tracking to fine tune the 3D image it provides, without the use of glasses.

The layers and sensors could also be used to present different images to multiple viewers at the same time – meaning you could do the kind of dual-screen gaming that Sony offered with its 3D gaming display, but without the need for active shutter 3D glasses. Motion detectors would help compensate for head and gaze movement, keeping images consistent throughout viewing.

Apple’s patent application for this tech includes graphics depicting it working in iPad-like devices, and you could see how this would be effective for expanding the range of possibilities for things like gaming and watching movies on the go. The tech would also be able to display a standard 2D image by disabling the advanced 3D gaze detection features, too, so it’d be easy for users to opt out if they were doing something like reading where 3D features don’t make sense.

Display resolution can only be improved so far before our feeble human eyes stop perceiving the advantages. Moving into something more advanced like this kind of hybrid 3D screen might provide Apple a way to stay ahead of the competition in terms of this core product component, but this tech would have to work perfectly in order to be considered; Apple wouldn’t settle for something that occasionally faltered and left users feeling somewhat ill, for instance.