Apple is trying to patent technology that will make augmented reality (AR) headsets more responsive in everyday real-world settings. The company’s application was filed in the third quarter of 2020, but builds on technology that has been in the works since 2018.
The patent application specifically seeks to change the software workflow for people viewing synthesized reality (SR) content using augmented or virtual reality devices. As it stands, users need to take deliberate steps to view SR content, which is to say that they need to select the file with that content and then open it to make it run on their device.
The Apple system, on the other hand, would not require any such user input. Instead, it would automatically display SR content based on the environmental context. The content would appear when the user looks at select landmarks that support the feature, and would be mapped directly onto the physical world to provide the user with supplemental information.
The proposed system would be compatible with smart glasses and other head-mounted devices with a transparent element, and with fully enclosed VR headsets. According to the application, Apple is trying to create a more seamless transition between the real world and the digital one. To that end, the patent includes a feature that would allow users watching a video on a screen to switch to (and from) an SR version of that same video. The utility has potential applications in education and training, since SR would replace a flat 2D video with a detailed 3D model.
The new application is getting published shortly after the publication of a separate Apple patent that details an eye-tracking solution for VR and AR headsets. However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has argued that AR systems like the one described in the application will raise serious privacy concerns if and when they get deployed in the real world.
Apple added lidar support with the release of the ARKit 3.5 in March.
Source: Patently Apple