Apple has just been granted another AR/VR related technology patent, to add to their growing list. In this case it’s a transparent, high field of view display which looks to be aimed at the augmented reality sector and, alongside other mounting evidence, could indicate Apple is preparing to enter the immersive technology race sooner rather than later.

Apple’s absence from the flourishing virtual and augmented reality stage is felt more strongly with every passing day. What’s more, anticipation that the company is working on ‘something’ AR/VR behind the scenes at Cupertino has been stoked by a series of company acquisition and staff hires. Most interestingly however are the trail of patent applications made by Apple, the latest of which has just been granted and describes a high FOV augmented reality headset display.

apple-ar-display-patent-waveguide

Originally filed back in June 2012, months before the Oculus was to make waves with its Rift DK1 Kickstarter campaign, this “continuation”, published by the US Patent and Trademark Office, extends an even older application, originally filed back in 2006. The patent is described as a “Peripheral Treatment of Head-mounted Displays” and details a form of AR display that seems to utilise technology similar to optical waveguide, a way to bounce light from a source to a destination with minimal loss of signal. In this case, the image is projected from a source off axis, reaching the eye via a transparent material (such as a visor or plate mounted over the eyes). Microsoft’s HoloLens uses a technique to display a virtual overlay onto the user’s view of the real world to create it’s so called “holograms”. Apple’s diagram, attached to the patent update, includes a label “Large Eye Motion Box”, perhaps indicating the display will feature a relatively high field of view for such a device.

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One of their latest updates to the granted patent includes the description, as detailed by Patently Apple:

A computer program product, stored on a non-transitory machine-readable medium, for projecting a source image in a head-mounted display apparatus, the head-mounted display apparatus having a display operable to project a display image viewable by a user and a peripheral light element positioned to emit light of one or more colors in close proximity to the periphery of the display, the computer program product comprising instructions operable to cause a processor to: receive data representing a source image; generate, based on the data representing the source image, a display image; generate, based at least in part on the data representing the source image, a set of peripheral conditioning signals to control the peripheral light element; display the display image on the display; and use the set of peripheral conditioning signals to control colors emitted from peripheral light element.

This new patent could indicate Apple are continuing to work on a forthcoming immersive display device, a speculation strengthened by a series of reports that Apple are amassing a team of VR, AR, UI and UX experts in the field to work on such a device.

See Also: Apple Granted Patent for Gear VR-like Mobile Headset, Could Have “Broad Ramifications” for Such Devices
See Also: Apple Granted Patent for Gear VR-like Mobile Headset, Could Have “Broad Ramifications” for Such Devices

Notable stories from the last couple of years include Apple’s patent for a Gear VR like mobile VR device, the company advertising for a “Senior Software Engineer with “proven Track Record in Virtual and Augmented Reality“, their acquisition of AR-focussed company FlyBy and a high profile hire in the form of highly respected virtual reality researchers Doug Bowman. It’s hard to believe that, alongside Apple’s glaring absence from the VR/VR field, these stories don’t point strongly to a significant effort within the company towards R&D in the field.

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Of course, patent applications – even those officially granted – don’t prove a company is actively working on anything. It’s common practice for large corporate technology enterprises to try to secure future IP ‘just in case’ they ever choose to pursue it. But alongside the other mounting evidence, it’s possible we could be looking at an immersive Apple device in some form sooner rather than later. One thing’s for sure, it won’t be a moment too soon.

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  • Steve Biegun

    I tried to reserve the name “iEye” but it was already taken.

    • Wednaud Ronelus

      I guess the big harbor sharks took it away.

      • Jorge Curiel

        Was about to post a SpongeBob-related reply when I saw your comment and dessisted.

    • ummm…

      “Ahoy There” is available. So is “Land ho”…………

  • psuedonymous

    “Apple’s diagram, attached to the patent update, includes a label “Large
    Eye Motion Box”, perhaps indicating the display will feature a
    relatively high field of view for such a device.”

    ‘Eye Motion Box’ refers not to visible FoV, but to the volume within which the pupil can move and still see the ‘projected’ image through the waveguide. For most optical systems, FoV and the eyebox have an inverse tradeoff (i.e. the larger angle you can view the image from, the smaller the FoV of the image).

  • Maybe try harder with the lead-in photo next time. While I’m sure Apple and Oculus will both be thrilled to see it, it’s not even AR. WOW

  • Sebastien Mathieu

    those patent are a joke…. so vague ….

    • Adrian Meredith

      So its easier to infringe and sue others of course

  • Xr covers all reality

    Apple mentioned ” a 3d hyper reality ” system in there 2009 patient could quite easily be called hyper reality or hr for short as this would give them the illusion that apple has come up with something different ie a new product and it could be seen as not copying but instead innovating

  • JustNiz

    Seems like just another patent for the bleeding obvious that already has prior art.

  • Bugs63

    Apple is outdated and tend to feed off the real innovators like Samsung and Google. Microsoft has the best proven record for AR as well as Weta workshop (Leap Motion). By the time Apple gets on board they’ll be so too late for anyone to really care. Besides the only kind of VR your going to get with Apple are a bunch of short demos!

    • Charlie

      Umm, really? Try Vuzix, my friend. vuzix.com