Patents have been front and center in the media thanks to the recent Google vs. the Rockstar organization events and Microsoft put in a neat little patent application February of last year for "Combined Surface User Interface," which Apple echoed on February of this year.
The idea behind this patent is to use pico projectors to display a workspace that can be integrated with another workspace from a different device. The user(s) will also be able to interact with the workspace through motions captured by the camera on the device.
Catch a glimpse into the future and see what I'm talking about after the break.
This is a very important patent application because it addresses a key fundamental issue with smartphones today, they are not great input devices. My smartphone spends more time by my side than family members, mostly because it isn't self-aware yet, and I use it all day every day as a management tool. Sometimes I'm forced to use it as a content creation tool which is what happened at CES 2011 when I had to write an article and post it with my phone. Any attempt to do real work on with my phone serves as a painful reminder that they are still viewed as phones more than computers that have more appropriate input methods. Should Combined Surface User Interface technology become reality it might address this problem in a fun and exciting way that will hopefully become viable in the near future.