The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has officially granted a patent to Apple’s mixed reality system, which uses a head-mounted display. The headset will come with a virtual retinal display, a reflective holographic combiner, and much more. In this article we will be talking about the technology behind Apple’s HMD patent, its features, design, team and tentative launch.
Apple’s granted patent includes various embodiments of an Augmented Reality or Mixed Reality direct retinal projector system, a technology through which the images project directly onto the retina rather than glasses, that may come with an AR headset that uses a reflective holographic combiner to overlay images on top of the viewer’s physical world. If successful Apple would be the first company to use the technology in a MR headset, this breakthrough comes after the acquisition of the startup Akonia.
According to the patent, the device will come with world-facing sensors that capture the three-dimensional (3D) structure of the world from the viewpoint of the sensor and user-facing sensors to capture the user’s emotions, gaze, and hand movement. Additionally, the sensors may be used to determine the position of a user in relation to the environment.
Further, the patent states that the sensor might be used to capture lighting information such as direction, color and intensity to provide realistic and high quality virtual content in front of the user’s view.
The figure with a user shows that the headset may include a near-eye VR projector that projects left and right images onto screens that are viewed by the user, such as DLP (digital light processing), LCD (liquid crystal display), and LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) technology projectors.
Figures 2A–2C depict the world-facing and user-facing sensors of a head-mounted display, which may capture multiple facial features including jaw, mouth, eyebrows and forehead movements.
The sensor may be equipped with Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) emitters and receivers/detectors that, for example, capture depth or range information for objects and surfaces in the user’s environment, something which is found in Iphones to improve Augmented Reality experiences.
According to MacRumors, Apple’s new MR headset could feature a sleeker design and lightweight build to ensure comfort and may equip two high-resolution micro OLED displays with up to 3,000 pixels per inch that will provide an immersive viewing experience.
Bloomberg sources have reported that more than 2,000 Apple personnel are currently working on the company’s virtual reality and augmented reality hardware as part of the Technology Development Group, or TDG.
Many analysts had reported the headset is targeted to be released during Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, however, it may be pushed back until the end of 2022 with the product launching in 2023.
As with most Apple products it is expected that the headset will be pricey.
The patent is a testament to the fact that Apple wants to play a big role in the VR/AR ecosystem and entice the audience with new innovative products. Last month, in January, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, during the company’s latest earnings calls mentioned that Apple is looking seriously into the metaverse and it is putting money into exploring its potential.