Apple Patents Optical System for Use in Both VR and AR Headsets

AR-VR-Apple-Headset Credit: USPTO
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Apple has invented an optical system for use on both virtual and augmented reality devices, a recent patent application shows.

The patent application, “Optical System for Head-Mounted Display,” was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Feb. 8. Among other things, the patent corroborates that Apple is continuing to invest in its development of VR and AR technology.

The Patent

While the application is written in the typically dense and jargon-filled language of patents, is it possible to glean several details about where Apple might be headed.

  • The patent application goes into detail describing an optical system for use in a head-mounted display. This head-mounted device could be used for either virtual or augmented reality purposes — both are mentioned, but the emphasis, interestingly, is being placed on virtual reality.
  • Additionally, Apple notes that long-term use of a head-mounted device can be uncomfortable. The patent also describes its methods for mitigating this issue — namely the use of more efficient lenses that aren’t bulky or heavy.
  • Basically, Apple has invented a system that can display images or other content on a head-mounted device that incorporates more efficient and comfortable-to-wear technology.

Previous Apple AR / VR Rumors

Apple, of course, has long been rumored to be developing an augmented reality headset. Industry and supply chain rumors, analyst predictions and even comments from CEO Tim Cook himself all corroborate this. The launch of ARKit, too, suggests Apple is ready to dive into augmented reality.

More recent rumors point toward a standalone augmented reality device that, one day, could even replace an iPhone. These rumors, citing sources within Apple, hint that the device could sport its own operating system, apps, and even its own App Store.

While there’s no word on a launch date, rumors suggest Apple could have the technology ready by next year. It could possibly hit the market by 2020.

What This Means for You

Of course, the rumor mill has been pushing the narrative that Apple will release an augmented reality headset. But the patent also describes a virtual reality headset.

While AR overlays digital information onto a real-world environment, VR headsets — which are already on the market — envelop the user in a purely digital world.

The patent doesn’t confirm anything, but it could hint that Apple is also working on a VR headset. Perhaps its own competitor to Google Cardboard or Oculus, used for gaming and viewing movies and other virtual content.

An Apple VR and AR device wouldn’t be mutually exclusive, either. It’s certainly possible that Apple could unveil its own VR headset while continuing to develop a groundbreaking AR device. The fact that this recent patent application applies to both technologies may be our first indication that this could be the case.

Of course, since it is just a patent application, there’s no guarantee if we’ll ever see the tech described hit the market. So take these rumors with a grain of salt.

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