Future iMacs could project your monitor displays onto walls

Apple appears to be creating an iMac with projectors on its back. Could this be another spatial computing device?
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
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Ever wish you had more monitor space? If you have a wall behind your computer monitor, it could become a blank canvas for your iMac, at least if Apple has its way. The company recently filed a patent for a computer with accessory projectors on each side to project images onto nearby surfaces, like the walls behind it.

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The patent document, which the US Patent and Trademark Office just published, describes the projector system that could become part of future iMacs. Aside from displaying images on the computer monitor, "the electronic device may project images onto nearby surfaces," according to the patent publication.

Apple patent application images

A couple of images from Apple's patent application explain its new system.

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

As you can see above, the patent includes a few illustrations that convey what the combination of these sensors and projectors will achieve. The iMac screen, shown in green above, could also project out to the external area behind it, as shown in blue.

The document also explains the system will "use projectors to display images using captured images, gaze detection information, and other information from input-output devices."

These input-output devices could include images from other Apple devices like iPhones and iPads, enabling users to seamlessly view their iMac monitor with their iPhone screen simultaneously projected on the wall to the left and a second monitor extension to the right. 

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Apple's future iMacs, as described in the patent, would feature a sleek design with translucent details, possibly to seamlessly blend in with the extended images in its surroundings. The iMac will also feature a glass layer covering a magnetic charging system to support wireless power transmission. 

These new iMacs would have 3D image sensors and gaze tracking systems capable of creating 3D maps of external objects and determining their location based on the user's gaze. This will enable the iMac to display tailored images onto external display areas and let the user successfully interact with them, blending traditional computing with the augmented reality experience.

These sensors also enable the projectors to pre-distort the images displayed on the external objects based on the 3D maps created from the objects' shapes. 

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