Apple is likely still working on a pair of augmented- or mixed-reality glasses, though concrete reports about the rumored device have been few and far between. But this week, Apple has filed two patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office suggesting that it’s still developing the underlying technology for a first-party AR headset.
Apple’s Patent Applications
The two applications are written in the typically dense language of patents, but there are still a slew of interesting details for the average consumer.
In its “Scanning Mirror Display Devices” patent application, for example, Apple details a way to replace the traditional opaque display panel in a virtual reality (VR) headset with a system of lasers and mirrors.
Essentially, it envisions a platform that uses mirrors to reflect light into a user’s eyes — creating an image and foregoing the need for an actual display. Parts of the system could even be transparent, which would be useful for overlaying virtual information onto a real-world environment.
The second patent, “Magnetic Sensor Based Proximity Sensing,” focuses on the use of gloves to interact with devices.
By using a complex system of magnetic components on a glove-based device, Apple theorizes that it’s possible to work out metrics like orientation, position and the angle of a user’s fingers.
The end goal is to allow for a glove to control an AR or VR device through gestures and the position of a user’s hands in 3D space.
This is a bit of an oversimplification, but the possible uses of both patents are pretty clear.
Apple’s AR Glasses
Apple AR glasses rumors aren’t new. Reports that Apple is working on a pair of first-party AR glasses stretch back a few years. Although, recently, those rumors have dried up significantly.
Past reports suggest that Apple’s AR glasses could feature their own “rOS” operating system and App Store. Other rumors conflict with each other, and so it’s not clear if the glasses will be a standalone replacement for an iPhone or if they’ll require one for connectivity, like an Apple Watch.
Still, despite rumors that Apple has put its AR glasses on hold, a recent report hints that Apple is still quietly developing AR headset technology.
Back in July, Apple moved a high-profile “bug wrangler” in an effort to bring “some order” to the AR headset team. This week’s patent applications are further evidence that Apple is still working on the tech in the background. Of course, patent applications aren’t great indicators of Apple’s future plans or when new devices will actually debut.