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Apple patent roundup: Pico projectors and schematic maps

It's turning out to be a pretty big week for Apple's patent portfolio. Earlier this week the company was granted nearly 20 new patents, and it's just filed for two more eyebrow-raising patents. The first patent, described in detail at Patently Apple, covers so-called "pico" projectors that could display information from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac against a wall for presentations and other applications. The patent describes built-in projectors for iDevices (which have been a pie-in-the-sky rumored feature for years) and a small projector accessory for Macs. According to the patent this goes beyond simple projection, however, with a "shared workspace" feature enabling images from one projected display to be shared and transferred to another.

This projector patent also describes support for a gesture-based interface that sounds broadly similar to the Kinect peripheral for the Xbox 360. The advantages for Keynote presentations are obvious, and it's likely that third-party game developers would jump on this feature too. Between the gesture-based interface and the projected images, this all sounds very evocative of the computer interface from the early 00s film Minority Report.

Apple may just be covering its patent bases and may have no plans to actually debut this feature any time soon, but MacRumors notes that Apple did recently purchase the applepico.com domain, possibly related to these new pico projector concepts.

AppleInsider describes today's other major patent application, Schematic Maps. This patent describes a feature whereby relevant features on a map would be emphasized for a user. For example, roads along a driving route could be distorted to represent only those roads relevant to the route, with distances warped so the entire route could fit on an iPhone's small display.

This would of course render the map inaccurate in several other ways, but it would definitely simplify navigation compared to the current Maps app, which must zoom in and out among various levels of detail for longer routes with multiple turns. This would also be more in line with how most users actually think about navigation; the emphasis is usually less on accurate representation of distances, cartography, etc., and more about finding landmarks and relevant points of interest along a route.

AppleInsider notes that this second patent is credited to two former employees of Placebase, a Google Maps competitor that Apple purchased nearly two years ago.

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