The US Patent Office has approved a Microsoft patent for a smart speaker with a built-in pico projector for 3D Skype conference calls.
The patent was originally filed back in 2017, but was finally granted to Microsoft by the US Patent Office at the end of October. The speaker would allow users to call family and friends and orchestrate meetings over Skype without the use of a PC or Mac, according to the filing (via Patently Apple).
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The speaker in question is cylindrical in shape – much like the Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod – with a small, rotatable module to allow the camera and projector to move independently.
This will allow the projection to remain constantly in-line with the user’s eyes, allowing the two parties to maintain a face-to-face connection whether they are sitting or standing.
According to the patent, the speaker would also be able to maintain calls across devices from room to room. This means that users with two Microsoft smart speakers would be able to continue a call from one room to the next without losing sight of the projection.
The smart speaker would also include a depth camera to capture and project images in real time, as well as a gaze tracker to detect the position of a users’ head in a 3D space. It would use this depth camera, as well as colour image data from the rotating module, to create 3D reconstructions within conference calls.
The inclusion of a Pico projector would allow the device to go a step beyond a smart display in terms of size, allowing a large image to be projected onto a user’s wall without compromising on the compact style of a smart speaker.
While this may not technically be Microsoft’s first smart speaker, it would be the company’s first independent venture into the smart speaker industry. The company worked with Harman Kardon in 2017 to release the Cortana-powered Invoke smart speaker but has remained quiet on the scene ever since.
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Nevertheless, with Microsoft’s rumoured Surface Speaker suspiciously absent from October’s 2019 Surface event, this Pico projector-packed device could very well be Microsoft’s first independent smart speaker. That said, as with all patents, there’s no guarantee such a device will ever see the light of day.