Apple has promised us some big things coming in 2014, including entirely new product categories that may change the world in the same way Cupertino innovated with the iPhone and iPad. The company may unveil the rumored iWatch this year, but what else? A new patent awarded to Apple this week describes an entirely new class of portable desktop computer that uses a built-in projector instead of a bulky monitor.
The patent, titled “Computer systems and methods with projected display,” was first submitted back in 2010 and describes a new type of computer that uses a projector as its “primary visual output” rather than the traditional monitors we’re used to. Besides the obvious cool factor, Apple notes that a built-in projector could mean a “wire-free” computer, suggesting it would include a built-in battery as well.
The biggest advantage to a projected display would be the ability place the device pretty much anywhere. Users would be able to carry around their desktop computers, mount one on a shelf or even hang it from the ceiling, using a wireless mouse and keyboard to control the display from a distance. Apple also describes an “optical engine capable of extreme angle projection,” which would allow the computer to project a large image over 40 inches across even from as close a distance as 15 inches or less, so you won’t need a huge room to use the computer.
There’s no guarantee that Apple’s projector computer will ever see the light of day—Cupertino patents and experiments with thousands of designs that never hit the market—but the company is clearly interested in projected displays. Whether that manifests in a new type of desktop computer, a mobile device or even in wearable technology first is unclear, but we may learn the answer as soon as next year.