Apple is Patenting iContact

If there's anything I like about Sagee it's the amount of interesting links he sends out on twitter (and via email).

Last week he sent this one out: apparently Apple has filed a patent on a camera that is "hidden" behind a display screen.


If there's anything that makes video calling weird it's the fact that you simply can't keep eye contact.

Before you jump in with your hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars worth telepresence conferencing system equipment, I ask you to think about people like me for a second. People like me, with their laptops and webcams, which constitutes the most common way for people to conduct their video calls, and which is going to be the most used scenario in the corporate domain as well in my opinion.

When using a web camera, usually sitting on top of the screen or on the desk, keeping eye contact is impossible, simply because you need to gaze at the screen to see the people you're talking to, while the camera shows off either your nostrils or your scalp to the rest of the world. I, by the way, prefer scalp.

The original post comes from Zach Spear of AppleInsider who covers this Apple patent. I've bolded out the interesting tidbits:

Submitted in July 2007, the filing details plans for a camera mounted behind a display that could capture an image "while the display elements are in an inactive state (in which the display elements are darkened and at least partially transparent)."

According to the document, a similar, additional system could involve two or more cameras, with software combining the two images into one.  Video would also be possible by cycling the display "between the active state and the inactive state repeatedly".

So what do we actually have here?
  • I guess they could have called this patent the iContact, if it wasn't already trademarked. Maybe iLook or Apple2C. I see no other reason to place a camera inside the display itself other than fixing the dreadful gaze problem.
  • A camera mounted right behind the display, between the eyes of the person that is displayed on the screen, should certainly fix the problem.
  • More than one camera is possible. This can bring 3D experience to play in video calls.

While Apple still hasn't whole heartedly committed itself to video telephony (there isn't even a front facing camera on the iPhone, but some believe it will soon be added due to another Apple patent), this may be a sign that they are starting to commit - which makes sense now, since the market shows signs of heading that way.

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