Mind-boggling Apple patent reveals futuristic 3D display allowing users to interact with images in mid-air

“On April 24, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a monumental invention relating to an interactive 3D display,” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple. “At first I thought it might have been a patent from PrimeSense, but the inventors are Apple engineers. Today’s discovery is one of those patents where you get goose bumps just thinking about what this could mean for the future.”

“According to Apple, an interactive display system may be provided that allows a user to interact with three-dimensional projected images that have been formed in mid-air,” Purcher reports. “The interactive display system may include display structures for producing a primary three-dimensional image. The display structures may include a laser projection system such as one or more infrared laser projectors that project an image into a non-linear optical material such as a non-linear crystal or the display structures may include other types of three-dimensional display technologies.”

Much more, including Apple’s patent application illustrations, in the full article here.


  1. I love stuff like this even if it’s waaaay down the road. I agree with the article that Apple’s Israeli 3D site is working on some advanced stuff. It’s out of the way and eyes of the press and near other leading edge companies working on this like primesense was and their technology was real enough with Kinect.

    Way to go Apple

  2. Since this must be novel and non-obvious, and must have a description of how it is done (not just an idea), it is likely that it’s realizable if an enabling technology exists. It may not yet, but Apple may well have prototyped something. That prototype may not be as useful as it would be if the enabling technology was more mature. Since it has to be more than just an idea to be patentable, there’s likely some substance to this. Not sure what year it would be “useful”. But hey, I’ll bet the porn industry can’t wait for interactive 3D displays.

  3. Samsung…. oh Samsung… Where are your copiers now? Quick figure out something. No, lets just spy on Apple and saw what we can piece together. I will chop off a body part before I buy another Samsung product.

  4. The basis for this 3D projection already exists and I have one. Two parabolic mirrors facing each other in a clamshell arrangement. The top “upside-down dish” has a circular hole at its apex. You place an object inside these two mirrors, positioned at the center of the lower mirror. An exact 3D replica of the object appears to float above the hole that is at the apex of the top mirror. It’s remarkable and fun to watch people attempt to pick up the toy or coin they see floating above this ” flying saucer-like” object. Their fingers pass right through the apparent solid object.

    Looks like a Apple is projecting an image to the bottom of this parabolic mirror device, and projection then appears as the float object above.

    We may see a working version of this sooner than you think.

    1. aah ‘Flying Saucers’, when i worked at the patent office in London I looked at a very famous patent there from the Post Office of all people (from the 60s I think) for a nuclear powered flying saucer. Still waiting but I guess its not much less likely than Amazon using Drones to deliver parcels.

  5. The image of the sensor on the table looks a lot like an iPhone. How cool would that be to give an iPhone the capability of not just interacting with an Apple TV, but allowing us to interact with an Apple TV or even a home automation system (Phone, cameras, HVAC, lighting, etc).

  6. It’s time Apple hid 5 golden tickets with assorted products. lucky recipients would be shown all the magical inventions of the future. Eric T Mole could play the part of Slugworth and Tim Cook could lead the lucky 5 into the mothership singing ‘come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination”

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