A new augmented reality (AR) patent was filed by Apple on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website Friday. The patent officially appeared on September 20, 2019—but the filing process began over two years ago in September of 2017.
The patent has very detailed specifications on how Apple’s new AR technology operates. They brought many new ideas to the table, including one which resolves a long-standing issue within the current AR and virtual reality (VR) industry.
The idea behind the new AR patent is to direct light into the user’s eye from a light engine. There are gaze tracking components to help increase the accuracy of holographic projections. But the most exciting aspect is the attempt to resolve the convergence-accommodation conflict. This is a known issue with many AR and VR headsets in which your brain perceives objects to be closer than they really are. It often occurs in headsets in which the images are projected to the eye from the opposite side—the left lens sends images to the right eye and vice versa.
The new patent details a way to project light into your eye without creating a convergence point. The illustration above demonstrates the new method (top) against the existing model (below) with a close focus convergence point. By projecting light into the eye with this method, objects appear naturally distant.
It's difficult to speculate on what Apple plans to do with the technology. It wouldn't be out of place for the company to create a new AR-based product of its own. But, there's also the possibility of third-party collaboration. All we can do is wait for reality to unfold—augmented or not.