A camera hidden right behind the pixels
I filed a patent for a way to hide a camera directly behind the pixels of a display screen. Unfortunately (perhaps fortunately!) the patent suffered failure-to-thrive in the litigation process, and sits dead but published. It has been referenced by the likes of Samsung, LG, Lucent, and Apple, but given its status, I will not be receiving my check for millions any time soon ~ such is life!
I first filed for utility patent in 2005 when there were mere rumors that the ubiquitous LCD would one day be replaced by something new.. something brilliant, bright and potentially transparent: OLED technology. Now, more than a decade later, OLED is only just emerging.
At the time, I was following the trend in video conferencing via mobile devices - that was several years before the birth of Facetime, and somewhere at the beginning of video Skype. I wanted to find a way to correct that annoying problem where it always looks like the person with whom you chat is looking somewhere else. I wanted to fix the eye-line problem and make face to face video truly eye-to-eye. The solution, in my mind, was to find a way to hide a camera behind the screen.
I had latched onto two features of OLED that were unique: emissive rather than subtractive of light, and super-fast refresh rate. The emissive characteristics were cool because you could make a display screen that can also be a transparent window. The glass doesn't have to be opaque or back-lit like an LCD. The fast refresh rate also meant that, in terms of a display screen, this transparency could be effectively 'hidden' from view by scanning an image before the user's eyes. Many of us still remember the CRT display and how the image was generated by a single bright line that swept down our visions 60 to 100 times per second.
Sooo... how do you hide a camera behind a screen? First you have an OLED screen created to be transparent when switched off. Then you back this with some window tinting. Put a small camera behind the tinting, hidden from view. Now, set up the display screen to refresh the image in a way that leaves a fraction of a second per frame that is entirely blank. Finally, synchronize the camera's moment of image capture to that moment when the blank portion of the image refresh is passing in front of the camera's position behind the screen. Voila!
Why stop at one camera? You can have two for 3D capture, or 20 for VR capture. Is anyone actually doing this? Not to my knowledge.
How do I know I'm not being spied on through my screen?
If you want to see if your screen has hidden, just turn off the screen in a dark room, and shine a bright flashlight at it. If there are cameras behind it, some angle of light will reveal small circular dots - those are the camera lenses reflecting back at you. :-) Enjoy!