A secret Apple lab in Taiwan made the news a few days ago, with subsequent reports offering potential explanations for Apple’s new research facility. After Bloomberg explained that as many as 50 employees are working on new display tech that would enable even thinner iPhone designs with brighter and more energy-efficient screens, a few reports suggested that Apple might be developing technology for flexible iPhone screens and micro-LED screens. Apple has been rumored to be planned a switch to OLED screens in future iPhone generations.
Now, a different report from South Korea speculates that Apple’s micro-LED technology could be used to create that can display holograms visible to the naked eye, eliminating the need for special glasses.
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According to iNews24, not only would micro-LED screens be more battery-friendly than alternatives, but they can be used to display 3D holographic images with the help of other specialized software and hardware.
If this sounds like a device from a science-fiction movie, we’ll remind you that Apple is very much interested both in this kind of technology (3D content and holograms) as well as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
Apple’s Interactive Holographic Display Device patent describes technology that would allow a user to interact with 3D objects shown on a display with the help of multitouch gestures. The device (an iPhone, iPad or Mac) would generate images by directing light through a screen in a specific way, though micro-LED technology isn’t explicitly mentioned. The system would be able to interpret a user’s hand gestures and trigger appropriate actions.
A company called Ostendo has already demoed a holographic display concept made possible using micro-LED projector technology, thus highlighting the potential of this type of screens for future commercial applications. Here’s a video showing off the tech:
Apple also has patents describing AR features that could be built into future devices, and has recently purchased an AR company that has demoed interesting uses of augmented reality technology. Apple confirmed a few weeks ago that it acquired a firm that’s partly responsible for the special effects in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which could help with the company’s VR efforts. And of course, Apple purchased LuxVue in 2014, a company that developed micro-LED technology.
In short, there’s evidence that Apple is interested in offering users additional content including 3D holograms as well as AR and VR experiences. Even though not all of them may be coming to the iPhone at first, it’s almost certain that Apple will want users to take advantage of its latest tech on its best-selling product, which happens to be the iPhone.
Obviously, Apple has yet to confirm any of the rumors related to its Taiwanese endeavor, but there’s more and more circumstantial evidence indicating that Apple might be working on the next big thing in display tech.