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Apple's All-Seeing Screen 447

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 RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:29PM (#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]
  • Workaround (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MECC ( 8478 ) * on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:32PM (#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.

  • Re:details? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:50PM (#15207628)
    Doesn't have to look bad. If done well and with the right sensors you could effectively build a phased array system which would provide excellent fodder for pat rec to determine 2.5d reconstruction. That could be the thing which will eventually drive 3d display systems.
  • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:56PM (#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).


  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:58PM (#15207687)
    I guess now, on the Internet they will know you're a dog.
  • by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:12PM (#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).
  • by posterlogo ( 943853 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:19PM (#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...

  • Re:Lenses? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:30PM (#15207969) Homepage Journal

    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 without sacrificing quality as you do with infinite-DOF systems using a CCD and a lens.

  • Re:Shades of 1984 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:32PM (#15207982) Homepage Journal
    I would suspect that this will be more like a scanner, in that the sensors will probably all be looking in the same direction.

    So did Orwell's original telescreen- Winston Smith took advantage of the shape of his apartment (a rectangular shoe box) and put the telescreen on the long wall, so that he could put his writing desk beside it and not be spied upon while writing in his diary.

    Unfortunately quicktime has taken ownership of whatever format the patent images are in, and is drawing only the top few percent of 'em, so I have no way to find out. The advantage is that it will have infinite depth of field, and not require focusing, which could only reasonably be done (as TFA suggests) by switching between sensor elements with different focal lengths.

    Yep- that and the ironic nature of the Apple commercial during the 1984 Superbowl.....
  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:36PM (#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 @05:44PM (#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

  • Re:Lenses? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by birge ( 866103 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @06:03PM (#15208178) Homepage
    with astonomical interferometry, you cause light from two different paths to hit on the SAME detector at the same point, thereby interfering. also, light from stars IS pretty much spatially coherent (because it's from so far away that it looks like a plane wave). but the main thing i was talking about was the fact that you can only do interferometry when you get the two (or more) sources onto the same detector. if we could measure the phase of light directly, there would be no end to the really cool stuff we could do, as you intuited.

    for example, we can measure the phase of radio waves directly without having to do interferometry, and that's why we can do neat things like synthetic aperture radar. so, your idea was very sound; you essentially proposed optical synthetic aperture imaging. unfortunately, we just don't have the technology to coherently measure optical waves (i.e. measure the phase of the electric field instead of just the integrated intensity) and i don't think we ever will in any general case.

  • by LoudMusic ( 199347 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @06:58PM (#15208510)
    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 yes, I dig that the iSight is firewire. But what I really want is a firewire keyboard that has a built in charging cradle for a wireless Mighty Mouse. There's no sense in a wireless keyboard, and there's no sense in replacing batteries.
  • Cloaking Device (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RAMGarden ( 306790 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @07:07PM (#15208565) Homepage
    You could use the same screen they are putting on jackets and shirts and stuff to make a bendable cloak, suit, or vehicle cover. Then simply have the pixels on the one side display the images seen from the other side. The only problem then would be computing the different viewable angles and deciding what to display where, but it would still be better than standard camouflage.
  • by Tim Browse ( 9263 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @07:29PM (#15208673)

    So you're saying that if I took this phone [nokia.co.uk] to some part of deepest Africa or Wyoming where there are no cellphone masts in the vicinity, and I turned it on, then although I wouldn't get a phone signal, the phone would still know exactly where I was in the world (subject to usual GPS accuracy limits)?

    Or are you talking about cell triangulation systems?

  • by volsung ( 378 ) <stan@mtrr.org> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @07:38PM (#15208723)
    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 Mr2001 ( 90979 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @08:08PM (#15208874) Homepage Journal
    I don't know about GSM phones, but CDMA phones in the US receive actual GPS signals (the tech is called gpsOne [phonescoop.com]). However, as I understand it, the phone doesn't have the time or CPU power to calculate its own location from those signals, so it just passes them through to the tower (when GPS is enabled), which uses them along with other information to locate you.

    It doesn't work when you're off the cellular network, but the whole point of gpsOne is to provide your location for cellular services like emergency calls.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @08:13PM (#15208901)
    If you had bought it in the US recently it would have had E911 support: http://www.fcc.gov/911/enhanced/ [fcc.gov] .

    Some phones implement E911 based on tower-triangulation, some on GPS, and some on handicapped hybridization of the two. So short answer: it's possible that you could go to no-signal land with some phones and still be able to get a GPS reading.

    If you want to be really paranoid, you could worry about your phone keeping a timestamped index of your travels in-no cellphone signal land. tab in onboard flash, or the position when you turned your phone off and back on again), and transmitting it to a central database when it got signal again. Alternatively, you could send the location heartbeat back to the central server intermittently.

    Short solution is turn off your phone, or if paranoid remove battery. Or if really really paranoid, carry it arround in lead bag, without battery.
  • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @09:51PM (#15209371)
    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 of us would keep a real log.

    Now picture the government mandating such a log. They mandate all people on your block to check out and in as they leave and log it all up to the minute in case the government should need it in order to "help you" in an "emergency."

    The first case is like your post. The technology to track has always existed, but nobody actually used it. The second case is what actually happened. The government decided to mandate both the logging and easy up-to-the-minute access to the tracking that has always been there.

    It's not the existance of techology that's the problem. It's the way our govenment chooses to use it.

  • by Wonderkid ( 541329 ) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @04:09AM (#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!

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson