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Apple-assigned Metaio patent illustrates rumored augmented reality glasses

Rumors that Apple is working on augmented reality glasses have been growing for some time, and a patent application published today shows how the same approach might be adapted to both a smartphone screen and smart glasses. It also describes how the two devices might be used in tandem.

This embodiment is particularly useful when using a head-mounted display comprising the camera and the screen. For example, the head-mounted display is a video-see-through head-mounted display (HMD). It is typically not possible for the user to touch the head-mounted screen in a manner like a touchscreen. However, the camera that captures an image of the real environment may also be used to detect image positions of the user’s finger in the image. The image positions of the user’s finger could be equivalent to touching points touched by the user’s finger on the touchscreen …

We first heard back in March that Apple was aiming to debut AR features on the iPhone before later launching smart glasses, with a leaked document later suggesting that the company has gotten as far as testing prototypes.

These reports have been echoed since, with one analyst suggesting this might be behind Apple’s $200M investment in glass supplier Corning, which also makes the Gorilla Glass used in iPhones.

The patent published today was the work of AR software developer Metaio, which Apple acquired back in May. A number of its patents have since been assigned to Apple, including an earlier one covering AR use for interior design and animated movie posters.

Spotted by Patently Apple, today’s patent illustrates AR being used both on a smartphone only, and in a hybrid approach where augmented images appear on both smart glasses and phone. The idea is that the user can use the phone to interact with images seen in the glasses.

The mobile device may perform an action related to the at least one point of interest if at least part of the computer-generated virtual object blended in on the semi-transparent screen is overlapped by a user’s finger or device held by the user.

The patent was filed in April of this year and published today. As always, it’s worth noting that Apple patents all kinds of tech that never make it to market, but given the company’s enthusiasm for augmented reality, rumors about smart glasses do seem at least credible some way down the line.

Mockup: Stuff

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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