Samsung is developing technology that makes smartphones able to create holographic projections

Samsung is developing pioneering technology that makes it possible to show an aerial image with your smartphone

Image Credit:  LetsGoDigital

Image Credit: LetsGoDigital

The hologram was invented by the Hungarian-British physicist and professor Dennis Gabor in 1971. Although the technology has been available for decades, the possibilities with regard to 3D technology have only really taken shape in recent years. In the future, it will even be possible to show projections from a smartphone.

Samsung is developing pioneering technology that makes it possible to show an aerial image with your smartphone, by use of a specially designed docking station.

A recently published patent shows that the user can adjust this color projection as desired via 'touch control,' directly on the air projection itself. Many potential use cases arise from this new technology.

Samsung applied for two patents with regards to holographic projections for smartphones. On August 20, 2019, they were granted a design patent by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) and the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Office) for a "Mobile Phone." It is a full-screen phone design with an edge display. To be able to make the aerial projection, this edge display appears to be indispensable.

The smartphone shows many similarities wit the current-gen Galaxy S10. The device has beautifully rounded corners and a screen-filling screen. Incidentally, three designs have been included in the patent illustrations, with minimal differences between the curve of the screen with regards to the corners.

LetsGoDigital created some renders of the patented device - Image Credit:  LetsGoDigital

LetsGoDigital created some renders of the patented device - Image Credit: LetsGoDigital

The design patent does not show what will happen with the selfie camera. Since it is not visible at the front and no pop-up camera or rotating camera is used, It is certainly not inconceivable that an under-screen camera will be used. Whether Samsung will have this technology ready at the time of the introduction of the Galaxy S11 (which is expected around February 2020) is still unknown. 

Nevertheless, the Korean manufacturer has been working on this technology for several years now. Although the patent was only approved and published on August 2019, it had already been filed on January 2017. The original patent was even filed in November 2016 in Samsung's home country, South-Korea. It is, therefore, to be expected that Samsung has a prototype that is currently being refined.

The second patent is where things become really interesting. At the end of 2018, Samsung Electronics filed a patent with the USPTO for a "Three dimensional imaging device and electronic device including the same." The patent was published on September 19, 2019.

Image Credit: LetsGoDigital - Click on image to enlarge

The technology for displaying stereoscopic images in the air has been available for a long time. Yet few consumers are aware of this, probably because of the fact that products are too expensive and there is not enough 3D content available, making it a costly gimmick with no real added value. 

The technology described in the patent makes it possible to convert a 2D photo into a 3D stereoscopic image or an "aerial image." The patented technology is significantly cheaper than current solutions, as described in the patent description. Moreover, this solution is not dependent on developers in terms of the content present.

An extensive description has been included, covering different types of devices that have one thing in common; they can project a color image into the air. The patent even speaks of integrating this technology into the dashboards of cars. 

To use the technology with smartphones, three components are necessary: an edge display, a half mirror, and a retroreflective element. These are positioned on a specific slope relative to each other. Thus, it becomes possible to reflect an image displayed on the rounded smartphone screen on the half-mirror via the retro-reflecting element, after which the image can be projected in the air. You only have to put the phone in the special docking station (called cradle). 

As an alternative, the patent also discusses the integration of a second retroreflective element which would improve the image quality. With two elements, the quality of the air projection would be (almost) equal to the image quality of your screen, according to the patent description.

Numerous use cases can be thought of, think of displaying time, battery status, or weather reports. The hologram cradle will also be capable of projecting notifications. In addition, it will be possible to control the air protection with your hand. Think of skipping songs, volume controls, etc. 

Samsung seems to be aiming to be one of the first smartphone manufacturers to enter this relatively new consumer market. It remains unclear when and in what form we can expect this holographic device. Perhaps we will learn more at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) that is planned for January 2020. Perhaps It consumers will be able to buy this device as an accessory for the Samsung Galaxy S11.

Sources and further reading: USPTO / LetsGoDigital via ANP pers support / Banner Image Credit: LetsGoDigital

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