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Apple's All-Seeing Screen 447

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the don't-leave-this-on-by-accident dept.
Based on a recent patent we may be seeing a new kind of display coming from the Apple store in the near future, one that can capture images as well as display them. From the article: "The clever idea is to insert thousands of microscopic image sensors in-between the liquid crystal display cells in the screen. Each sensor captures its own small image, but software stitches these together to create a single, larger picture."
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Apple's All-Seeing Screen

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  • by nizo (81281) * on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:27PM (#15207413) Homepage Journal
    Now I know which monitor to recommend to that cute neighbor next door. "Sure, I would be happy to help you set up your new monitor and wireless router!" Which reminds me, which wireless router would be the best for streaming video?
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:27PM (#15207415) Homepage Journal
    So, what you're telling me is that Apple is NOT really the enemy of Big Brother, but Big Brother in disguise? I'm so confused. How can there be so many truths? The Ministry is supposed to protect us against such confusion by telling us ONLY the truth! If you'll excuse me, I think I need to go watch my telescreen now. Perhaps the truth is there.

    Down with Goldstein!

    (For those lacking context: Commercial [uriahcarpenter.info] | 1984 [gutenberg.net.au])
  • by pintomp3 (882811) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:28PM (#15207416)
    i need one of these all-seeing screens i guess
  • Doubleplusgood! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wdomburg (141264)
    "A large LCD screen filled with image sensors would be ideal for videoconferencing..."

    Or telescreens. I suddenly want to dig out the 1984 commercial again.
  • Paraphrasing from memory, and no, I didn't bother to actually look up the quote on the web even though I know it exists: And the telescreen didn't only recieve, but also transmitted, so that anything within the view of the telescreen was being watched. Not all the time, but you never quite knew when a watcher would tune in to your screen.
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:29PM (#15207435) Homepage Journal
    "It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself -- anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called."

    Found it here: http://www.newspeakdictionary.com/ns-dict.html [newspeakdictionary.com]
  • I cant help but thing how scary this thing would be from a privacy angle, while at the same time how cool and interesting this idea actually is
    • How is it any scarier from a privacy angle than a webcam? You chose whether you buy this kind of monitor, after all. Its more convenient than a webcam, but not necessarily scarier. Sure, screens outside of your control could have this functionality, but its not like concealed cameras in spaces under otehr people's control aren't a possibility (and frequent fact) of life without these new monitors.
    • How is it any more scary than having a webcam perched on top of your monitor. The only difference is the camera will record your face straight-on, rather than from 10 degrees above it...

      -Jesse
  • D'oh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rollgunner (630808) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:31PM (#15207458)
    Now we won't be able to tell the classic "Blonde holding the page up to her monitor and pressing the 'PrintScreen' key" joke anymore...
  • Workaround (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MECC (8478) * on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:32PM (#15207459)
    Kodak's patent mentions previous research suggesting a correlation between age and the way pupils react to light. As a person gets older, their pupils have greater difficulty widening to cope with dim light, it says. The company suggests that an age-verification system could take mug shots of a person from a set distance in controlled lighting, using a flash. Software would then measure the size of their red-eye dots to determine how wide their pupils are and make an estimate of their age.

    I wonder if a picture of an older person with the red eyes in would fool such a sampling.

  • With Apple, monitor watches you!

    <Cue chirping crickets>
  • by afex2win (941849) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:34PM (#15207480)
    so does this mean those old email jokes that "took a picture of you magically through your monitor" might actually end up showing an ugly nerd instead of a monkey?
  • <b>So it really turns out there is some truth to online palm readings after all.</b>

    Any of you guys see those sites that tell you to smuge your face to the screen and click a button, then on the next page says you're an idiot? I guess now you won't have to feel so stupid.
  • It'll nicely eliminate the classic webcam-looking-down-on-you situation, but it makes covert spying by nasty software a very real possibility. Not to mention that technology like this will end up in screens in stores, on streets, and eventually even in your television. It's the ultimate hidden camera - hidden in plain sight! Abuse is a given.

    Sure, eventually we'll all adapt to the idea that screens could be watching us in the same way we are watching them - but that's going to take a long, long time to r
  • The iSight video camera was distinctive back when it was introduced for two reasons (versus most other web cams commonly used at that time). First, it connected via FireWire. Second, it came with mounting brackets (included, for free in the iSight box) to attach the camera securely to the top center of Apple's LCD monitors and laptop screens.

    The result of this second "innovation"? iSight video confernces looked significantly more natural and more natural than web conferences hosted using Logitech and other web cams that (typically) sat to the bottom right or left of the computer monitor (or awkwardly on top) and, hence, gave participants really skewed views of each others' faces.

    The innovation described in TFA is the logical next step of this eminently sensible design decision that Apple has been promoting for years.

    (Side note: the reason why the iSight demos in Apple keynote addresses look so darn good is that the participants are looking at the iSight camera, and not at the actual screen when they're doing the demo. It's a very subtle shift, but it still matters. Kind of a clever, sneaky way to make the product look even better than it actually does.)

    • Wouldn't it be cheaper/easier to put 4 (or more) small cameras in each corner of the monitor and use them to extrapolate a view from the center of the screen?

      You could even include an app that lets you offset the 'center' for situations where the monitor isn't directly facing the user.

      (Is the monitor cable two way?)
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:10PM (#15207799)
      The iSight video camera was distinctive back when it was introduced for two reasons (versus most other web cams commonly used at that time). First, it connected via FireWire. Second, it came with mounting brackets (included, for free in the iSight box) to attach the camera securely to the top center of Apple's LCD monitors and laptop screens. The result of this second "innovation"? iSight video confernces looked significantly more natural and more natural than web conferences hosted using Logitech and other web cams that (typically) sat to the bottom right or left of the computer monitor (or awkwardly on top) and, hence, gave participants really skewed views of each others' faces.

      Number one, iSight cameras aren't even remotely as popular as all the PC USB-based webcams; they're EVERYWHERE, and ISPs for years have been giving them away as freebies. Number two, the iSight wasn't distinctive because of its interface; webcams have been available for years with USB2. I strongly suspect it was firewire because most people NEED their USB ports for keyboards and mice, but don't really use their firewire port except for occasional camcorder use, if at all.

      The iSight was distinctive because:

      • Physical appearance A bit of cheap cast aluminum looked a hell of a lot better than a few cents of plastic.
      • Autofocus
      • A relatively large CCD size for lower noise (a larger CCD also makes optics easier/less critical)
      • built-in microphone specifically designed for the purpose
      • A somewhat decent lens
      • Privacy shutter

      The mounting devices just make it slightly more convenient to attach the camera, particularly if you had an Apple LCD. It's a problem solved with a little bit of tape, by the way.

      Another "by the way"- the iSight cameras in the Macbook and iMac absolutely SUCK. They're basically cellphone cameras; microscopic lens and CCD, no autofocus. No privacy shutter. The picture is very noisy and low resolution, the colors are funky...

    • by am 2k (217885) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:13PM (#15207828) Homepage
      Side note: the reason why the iSight demos in Apple keynote addresses look so darn good is that the participants are looking at the iSight camera, and not at the actual screen when they're doing the demo. It's a very subtle shift, but it still matters.

      I know somebody with a MacBook Pro, and when I video chat with her, it looks like she's looking into the camera, when she's actually not. That's probably caused by the camera being so close to the screen. I have a 24" TFT with an iSight on top of it, and the illusion isn't there.

    • You can not give Apple credit for camera placement. That's pushing things. Anybody can stick their webcam anywhere they'd like. Most of them come with either a way to stick them to something or clamp them on. Even my 6 year old Intel camera has a removable foot that has a sticky pad on the bottom in addition to its industry standard camera mounting bolt in the center bottom.

      Apple's biggest innovation over any of the other technology companies is that they hired an advertising company that's worth a damn.

      And
  • Lenses? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:40PM (#15207536) Journal
    Unless they've also inserted thousands of tiny lenses the device is just a cute hack to create a no-moving-parts contact scanner. Put the thing you want scanned up to the screen and illuminate it with the screen's light. (You can get color by having the sensors sensitive to all the colors of the screen and flashing the screen in each color.)

    With lenses they could make it an insect-style compound eye. But the focus would probably be pretty rotten due to diffraction limits from the small size of the lenses. (You might be able to post-process some of that out, though.)
    • Rather than (or in addition to) having a tiny lens on each sensor, you can apply interferometry to get a giant "virtual" lens.
    • With lenses they could make it an insect-style compound eye. But the focus would probably be pretty rotten due to diffraction limits from the small size of the lenses. (You might be able to post-process some of that out, though.)

      There are those microlenses that can change shape with charge. A million fixed-focus lenses would be much cheaper to manufacture than variable ones though.

      But I suspect your second hunch is the right one - you can do some pretty amazing things in software now. There was an article
    • Re:Lenses? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      You can take pictures with a scanner. A guy did it and put the pictures up on his webpage. They were amazingly good for not even having been made using any kind of jig, he just held the scanner up and rotated his viewpoint (and thus, its as well) while the scanning element moved.

      If you pointed all the elements in the same direction (perpendicular to the display of course) then you could get a fairly high-resolution image of anything directly in front of the monitor, and with infinite depth of field with

  • by iolaus (704845) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:41PM (#15207537) Homepage
    The the iSaruman?

    Muahahahahaha!
  • I was wondering when someone would solve that. As small a thing as it may seem, I think the main problem with video chat is that you can't look into the other person's eyes. Even with the iChat built into the bezel on the new macs, there's still this disconcerting thing about a person looking at your neck while you talk. It's probably hard coded in our brain to be suspicous of such folks.

    Cheers.
    • As small a thing as it may seem, I think the main problem with video chat is that you can't look into the other person's eyes.

      I think you're right. I got a set of D-Link videophones for us and my parents (they sit on top of the TV) and my 2-year old daughter is always trying to show her grandparents her latest tricks. She sees them on the screen, so she puts herself right where this new kind of display would work, a few feet from the screen. She doesn't get that the camera has a limited field of view and
  • by Gannoc (210256) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:42PM (#15207548)

    My iMac has a freaking camera in it too, and i'm not stocking up on canned goods in fear of the inevitable war with Eurasia.

    I mean, it contains similarities to a fictional device...and you're acting like the only use is in the same sci-fi scenario.

    • I mean, it contains similarities to a fictional device...and you're acting like the only use is in the same sci-fi scenario.

      Let me guess - you have a girlfriend? Let's extrapolate that to the fifty 1984 references littering the commentspace. 'nuff said.
  • The Apple iPod telescreen ...

    To raise or lower volume - just twist your finger in the air above your iPod.
    To select a song - just snap your fingers in the air above your iPod.

    To tell Steve Jobs you love him ... just smile into the face of the iPod.
  • by richdun (672214) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:46PM (#15207589)
    ...is that covered under the warranty?
  • For over 30 years, Barry Fox has trawled through the world's weird and wonderful patent applications, uncovering the most exciting, bizarre or even terrifying new ideas.

    too bad he still can't tell the difference between a patent and a patent application. you'd think he'd get that after 30 years.
  • Based on a recent patent we may be seeing a new kind of display coming from the Apple store in the near future

    What I see is Apple's lawyers descending on Slashdot for revealing their latest "Trade Secret".

  • Soon every bedroom will have an iMirror! You can decide if you look good and get a second opinion from your computer!
  • by isaac (2852) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:56PM (#15207672)
    Think touch-screen here, not camera. Regular touch screens typically register only a single point at a time. There are alternatives that use frustrated total internal reflection, but currently these require rear projection - not feasible for a tablet. See http://mrl.nyu.edu/~jhan/ftirtouch/ [nyu.edu] if you haven't already.

    Incorporating sensing elements within the display will permit sensing multiple simultaneous points of contact of arbitrary size/shape in a tablet form-factor. Neat!

    Apple's been patenting lots of touch-interface concepts recently, too. Vide. [uspto.gov]

    This patent is probably more about touch-screens than screen as scanner (that'd be a neat trick too, but probably would require too much resolution) or camera (would require a different but perfectly calibrated refractive element at each sensor - probably impractical).

    -Isaac

  • This would be perfect for touch screens since the software would be able to tell where the center was. Even though your finger may be very large, it approaches a specific point as you touch the screen. So you might 'touch' several on-screen buttons, but the mac would know (or at least have a better idea) which one you were trying for. It could also let you move things without actually touching the screen, so dragging wouldn't need constant pressure.
  • by Cally (10873) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:58PM (#15207686) Homepage
    "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen, when Skynet achieved consciousness."
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:58PM (#15207687)
    I guess now, on the Internet they will know you're a dog.
  • by tgd (2822)
    I'd think the software interpolating the final image would have to correct for the differences in angles from each image sensor to produce a flat 2-D image...

    Which would imply if you shut it off, you'd be taking fairly detailed 3-D images (left/right view 3-D limits the viewer to a single viewing angle, but if you were taking 1600 images from left to right, you'd have a LOT more image data to produce a truer 3-D model)

    Interesting...
  • and it stared right back.

    (Apologies to Nietzsche, but it had to be said)
  • At Soviet Apple, your screen watches you!
  • by zpok (604055) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:07PM (#15207779) Homepage
    I'd love to just point and speak to my computer, and where convenient use a tablet or glove or whatever comes most natural.

    Reminds me of Sun's vision of the future. What was that video called? Starlight?
  • by pintomp3 (882811) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:08PM (#15207780)
    this is going to combine online sex with more realist facials... i'm guessing these things will have no secondhand market.
  • Each sensor captures its own small image, but software stitches these together to create a single, larger picture.

    And that explains the need for a Core Duo[tm] processor at minimum. One core to write to the screen, and the other to read from the screen and assemble the image. Putting thousands of pieces together properly will not be a minor task.

  • by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:12PM (#15207819) Homepage
    When does a camscreen become mandatory?

    I'm not kidding here. After all, if I'd told you ten years ago that by 2005, all cell phones would have a mandatory GPS tracker broadcasting your location to the phone company as you move about, with a nominal abilty to be switched off (ha), would you have believed me?

    I see no outrage over Homeland Security, your phone company, Scientology, and any random corporation with a legal staff being capable of tracking your movements for the rest of your lives. Where is the outrage?

    I see no problem with camscreens becoming mandatory in the next 15 years. Even the techiest of the techies have no problem with the tracking devices in their phones, cameras on the streets, and eventually mandatory trackers in our cars, so letting Mr. X watch you as you all watch your computer screens is not a biggie. I can see an infinite number of excuses to make it required by law. Hell, even the emergency health care bit that they used for the cell phones could be re-rigged for this one.

    And the generation of kids coming up through school have been seen drug tests, dog searches, RFID trackers, and lie detectors. They've been told they have no rights as minors, and I doubt they'll be any more rebellious as adults. They're also convinced they are surrounded by enemies wanting the kill them in their schoolbuses and office buildings, so the fear excuse is a big Go.

    Such a neat device, a camscreen. Here's what I'd like: separate power circuits for the screen and the camera element array. So I *know* that the thing cannot operate without my permission. But I wanted that for my cell phone's tracking device, and so far the phone salesmen look at me like I'm bin Laden or a specially-abled adult who left his house without his nurse. (big thought: look overseas for a phone capable of giving me the option of being untracked, import the damned thing. Maybe I am a little slow).
    • After all, if I'd told you ten years ago that by 2005, all cell phones would have a mandatory GPS tracker broadcasting your location to the phone company as you move about, with a nominal abilty to be switched off (ha), would you have believed me?

      No, I wouldn't have believed you, and I still don't. Know why? Because it's not true. At least, not here in the US. Also, at least in some GPS phones, the GPS cannot be switched off, period.

      At least two cellphone providers in the US balked long enough, get

    • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:20PM (#15208300)
      I'm not kidding here. After all, if I'd told you ten years ago that by 2005, all cell phones would have a mandatory GPS tracker broadcasting your location to the phone company as you move about, with a nominal abilty to be switched off (ha), would you have believed me?
      Don't you realize that every cellphone since the beginning of time has had a tracking ability? It has to, by design -- otherwise, the system won't know which tower to route the call to. The only difference with the new ones is that triangulation via GPS is more accurate than triangulation via cellphone towers.
      • Don't you realize that every cellphone since the beginning of time has had a tracking ability? It has to, by design...

        You are missing the point.

        Currently, your neighbor can watch your house 24/7/365 and keep logs of when you leave and when you go. Then they can turn those logs over to the police upon request. The thing is, nobody does this. Your neighbor might have a vague idea of when you leave and show up, particularly if their daily routine puts them in a position to notice, but only the most demented
    • You know, I was really disappointed when I found out my phone had this tracking capability, but there was no way to actually display my coordinates on the phone. Then at least I would get something out of this even if I'm not having an emergency.
  • by posterlogo (943853) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:19PM (#15207882)
    It's not like having an imbedded eyesight camera in powerbooks or iMacs is that different. There's still a camera pointed at you. I remember back when those old Sony compact laptops had the camera included too. Honestly. What's with all the clandestine spying/big brother hype? How bout we stick to the technology.

    With that in mind, I'd be interested in knowing how such a microsensor would work without a focusing element...

  • by blueZ3 (744446) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:21PM (#15207899) Homepage
    Where the guy tells IT he can't fax a document and it turns out he's been holding it up to the screen. Now it will work!

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:36PM (#15208014) Homepage Journal
    Make make a cube of these and have the senors in one screen fed the opposite screen. If they could get it to work with epaper then all the better.
    Yes I know it wouldn't be perfect but it could be very cool.
  • First for all of those posting "Heeeey, way to spy on chicks!": You're why many women dislike /. You're not funny; you're sad, creepy, and need to get a life.

    I'll also point out a relative of mine had this happen to her. She's a pretty, vivacious, young woman, married, was then working in a public relations firm. The IT fellow was always a little too attentive for her comfort, to the degree she actively avoided calling him for issues.

    Eventually she needed her speakers for a project, but rather then call in creepy IT guy she asked office clever guy to take a look, it was probably just a loose wire or something. That was indeed the issue, however he also discovered an additional cable, running to a camera, mounted under her desk staring into her crotch, feeding into a nearby cabinet with a VCR.

    Much hullaballoo ensued, everyone in the building heard of it within a few minutes, much to the ire of the police. There were fingerprints, and all of the fellas in the office but for creepy IT guy offered theirs for comparison. none of the supplied prints matched, IT guy quit, relative had her desk replaced with a table.

    That's who you sound like when you post stuff like that.

    The good news is Steve Jobs has been here before. I remember NeXT bringing around one of their boxes to demo at my local http://www.acm.org/ [acm.org]">ACM chapter. It came with a nifty built-in microphone, to which someone immediately noted "great for spying!" The NeXT rep gave a smile and pointed to the red LED next to the microphone, hardwired to light up whenever the microphone was active.

    This practice continues to this day at Apple, putting in hardwired signal LEDs to indicate when a camera is active. My expectation is that this will continue. Indeed I wouldn't be surprised if Apple were to even include a camera-active screen mode to brighten it for a better picture when the camera is active, possibly swapping in a white background.

  • by dmoen (88623) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:44PM (#15208062) Homepage
    The patent application [uspto.gov] mentions a number of applications: (1) video conferencing, (2) using the screen to replace the camera in multi-function portable devices like PDAs and mobile phones, (3) medical probes that must capture an image and supply their own illumination.

    Slashdot user Isaac mentions the idea of using this for a touch sensitive display. I couldn't find this mentioned in the patent application, so the race is on to file a follow-on patent!

    But you wouldn't actually have to touch the screen. Years ago, MIT built a user interface called "put that there" that did gaze tracking and voice recognition, so that the "mouse pointer" was pointing at whatever object you happened to be looking at on the display. No need to touch a mouse, you just use your gaze. That might be possible with this technology. It could also be used to interpret hand gestures and facial expressions, and use them as input.

    I personally think it would be cool to build a software-programmable mirror. Think of a bathroom mirror with zoom functionality, image enhancement functions, etc. The extra functions are activated by hand gestures, and face recognition is used to determine the centre of zoom (because in a bathroom, you normally want to zoom in on your face).

    Doug Moen

  • by alchemist68 (550641) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:20PM (#15208295)
    Assuming Apple gains significant market share in corporate America (and the world), the following scenarios are possible:

    1. Your boss can actually watch you pick your nose and possibly see what you do with the booger. Options include wiping it on something, flicking it somewhere in your office/cubicle, eating it.

    2. Your boss can view your facial expression to determine if you enjoy your job, enjoy your current task, day dreaming, sleeping on the job, or in general wasting time.

    3. Your boss can see what you're eating/drinking while at work.

    4. Your boss can see your facial expressions and behavior while looking at members of the same/opposite gender.

    5. Your boss can see with whom you socialize and network while in front of your computer.

    6. With regard to unauthorized employee monitoring, this technology could possibly be defeated with a semi-transparent mirror.

    Fellow Slashdotters, please reply with ideas that I've missed/omitted!
  • Oh great (Score:5, Funny)

    by proverbialcow (177020) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:26PM (#15208330) Journal
    First I get in trouble for looking at pr0n at work. Now I'm going to get in trouble for masturbating, too?
  • by jgoemat (565882) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @06:39PM (#15208726)
    I hope Homeland Security doesn't get wind of this. The patriot act allows covert surveillance where they law forces companies to remain silent about what they turn over. I wonder if there's a provision in it (it's so huge I haven't had time to read it, like many of the lawmakers who hurredly passed it into law) to allow the government to force companies to put backdoors into their products for this type of thing without telling consumers. Closer and closer to 1984... Trust the little LED all you want, I won't be buying one of these.
  • by Wonderkid (541329) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @03:09AM (#15210606) Homepage
    ...back in the 1990s, I was helping someone who was involved with a technology called the optical waveguide display, developed in part by Imperial College, London. This had the ability to emit and receive light. As part of my work I was doing some research and came across a patent by AT&T that described a system similar to Apple's. Of course, it is possible AT&T's patent expired and/or Apple are doing something different. Either way, the privacy issues are interesting as it will not be possible to include a physical 'lens cap' for peace of mind. Also, this would be ideal for an 'instant' scanner. IE, lay item to be scanned on your display, and it's 'scanned' in a flash. No more moving scan head! Forget 30fps video, we could be talking 30fps scanning! (Using a commercial application of the technology.) The LCD photocopier? Ooh!

Don't sweat it -- it's only ones and zeros. -- P. Skelly

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