May 6, 2019
Apple Inc. has filed a patent application relating to an augmented reality (AR) system, which some commentators suggest has the potential to define the augmented reality market as the industry enters a new phase of more practical hardware and sophisticated software.
The 292-page application (US 2019/0065027), filed in August 2018 and published on February 28, 2019, is entitled “Systems, Methods, and Graphical User Interfaces for Interacting with Augmented and Virtual Reality Environments.”
The patent’s 18 claims describe a computer system that creates an “augmented reality environment” by concurrently displaying “at least a portion of a field of view” and “a respective virtual user interface object.” The user interacts with the augmented environment with the assistance of a “touch-sensitive surface” such as an iPhone.
The application appears to confirm Apple’s long-rumoured interest in the augmented reality field. At least one analyst has predicted that Apple’s research and development work in this area is finally coming to fruition and that the AR headset could enter production as early as the fourth quarter of 2019, with consumer-facing mass production beginning in 2020.
Augmented reality technology overlays virtual objects on real scenes in real time, allowing a user to perceive and interact with a hybrid real-artificial environment. The paradigmatic example is the use of a projected yellow line to indicate the first down in American football in television broadcasts.
However, as interest in augmented reality increases, there has been a rapid growth of potential applications, including apps that assist travelers in navigating busy airport terminals or allow shoppers to virtually “try on” products such as watches and makeup.
Other tech companies have been active in exploring augmented reality in recent months. Microsoft announced its new self-contained HoloLens 2 mixed-reality headset at a Barcelona conference in February and Magic Leap released a trial run of its headset in August 2018.
Based on the information disclosed in the August 2018 patent application, Apple is taking an approach similar to Magic Leap’s by developing a headset that communicates wirelessly with an iPhone or a separate computer. Some commentators have likened Apple’s newly-patented system to the Apple Watch, which requires the presence of an iPhone to operate.
Authors: Jaclyn Tilak and Wes Dutcher-Walls