Apple’s virtual paper patent could return us to skeuomorphism

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Apple has today been granted a patent for a graphical display concept it calls virtual paper, and two things struck me about it – one about its origins, the other about what it may tell us about future Apple design language.

The patent is for a visual representation of paper in three-dimensional form, which is, of course, the type of user interface most applicable to the upcoming Apple mixed-reality headset

Virtual paper patent

As Patently Apple spotted, the Cupertino company has today been granted a patent that takes the concept of folding paper from a 2D world to a 3D one.

Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to the future use of Virtual Paper on devices that will be able to crumple, flip, fold, bend while keeping the graphics intact in varying positions as the virtual paper changes angles and perspectives. Virtual paper could include mixed reality content in 2D, 3D and animation where the image could be constantly shifting depending on a particular state that it’s in. This is pretty cool stuff that’s now in-the-works.

Apple’s patent language is, as usual, much denser.

While the 3D virtual content is displayed such that the 3D virtual content is bounded within the perimeter of the virtual paper, the 3D virtual content is able to protrude out from a first side of the virtual paper, and the display of the 3D virtual content is based on the second set of world coordinates. The 2D virtual content, on the other hand, is displayed as conforming to the surface of the virtual paper based on the first set of world coordinates. In some embodiments, a second side of the virtual paper, which is the opposite of the first side of the virtual paper (e.g., the backside), is displayed with a rasterized conforming representation of the 3D virtual content, e.g., a blur effect or shadow of the 3D virtual content, along with a rasterized conforming representation of the 2D virtual content. 

Two things struck me about this.

It’s the latest iteration of a 1983 concept

First, that is effectively the latest iteration of a concept first seen in the LISA way back in 1983!

For anyone who’s never used a personal computer…

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