Your future iPhone could be outfitted with a transparent display that could overlay images onto objects in the real world à la augmented reality.
"Transparent electronic device," a patent granted to Apple on Tuesday by the US Patent and Trademark Office, describes a touch-sensitive display integrated into a transparent window.
The patent paperwork gives as an example a museum visitor, who could point the device at a painting to see overlaid details about the work. Info on landmarks, historic sites and scenic locations could also be accessed via overlays.
Since their arrival, smartphones have become ever more powerful pocket computers, steadily absorbing functions that once required separate devices. Augmented reality, for its part, is nothing new. The City Lens app for Lumia phones can already display information on top of objects in the real world. But building the technology directly into a mobile device shows a potential future direction for the iPhone.
The technology could also expand beyond handheld devices. A sightseeing bus, for instance, could use transparent displays as windows.
Another patent awarded to Apple on Tuesday describes an "electronic device with wrap around display." In the patent, Apple envisions a device with a transparent wraparound housing and a flexible display enclosed within that housing.
The display is designed to show you content on any portion of the transparent housing. As you look around the housing, face-tracking technology and an accelerometer can determine exactly what you're viewing and display onscreen graphics and information to match your gaze.
Apple didn't respond to CNET's request for comment.