After Google’s flashy demonstration at the Google I/O event of just how far along they are with Project Glass, Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent for technology related to a head-mounted display device.
The patent – United States Patent 8212859 – governs what Apple says is a head-mounted display (HMD). This is in contrast to Google Project Glass being described as a head-up display.
Titled “Peripheral treatment for head-mounted displays,” the patent was first applied for by Apple way back in 2006 and credits John G. Tang and Anthony M. Fadell, former Apple SVP for the iPod division and known as the “grandfather of the iPod”.
You may remember Fadell from our previous coverage on the Nest Learning Thermostat which Apple now sells. Fadell founded the company which makes the intelligent thermostat.
Meanwhile, the abstract of the patent reads:
“Methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing and using techniques for projecting a source image in a head-mounted display apparatus for a user. A first display projects an image viewable by a first eye of the user. A first peripheral light element is positioned to emit light of one or more colors in close proximity to the periphery of the first display. A receives data representing a source image, processes the data representing the source image to generate a first image for the first display and to generate a first set of peripheral conditioning signals for the first peripheral light element, directs the first image to the first display, and directs the first set of peripheral conditioning signals to the first peripheral light element. As a result, an enhanced viewing experience is created for the user.”
Apple’s HMD device is envisioned to display information in front of its user’s eyes. The HMD will have one or two minute LCD or OLED displays integrated to wearable gear like a visor, pair of glasses or helmet.
To solve eye strain problems typical of HMDs, Apple’s device will use what it calls “peripheral treatment”. This means that the LED, OLED or other technologies including lasers will match the colors of the primary image which will then be seen by the user stereoscopically to forego “tunnel” vision.
Furthermore, the patent also describes an Apple HMD being used to transmit transparent images overlaid with the real world the user is in. In this use, the Apple HMD could compete with Google Project Glass.
For this application, Apple provides the following scenarios their device will be useful in:
“Some examples include applications in surgery, where radiographic data, such as CAT scans or MRI imaging can be combined with the surgeon’s vision. Military, police and firefighters use HMDs to display relevant tactical information, such as maps or thermal imaging data. Engineers and scientists use HMDs to provide stereoscopic views of CAD schematics, simulations or remote sensing applications. Consumer devices are also available for use in gaming and entertainment applications.”
In the most basic terms, with this technology, Apple wants to create a head-mounted display device that will not be uncomfortable for the wearer to use.
Apple’s newly granted patent is termed very broadly and could potentially cover a lot of head-mounted displays. Meanwhile, Google has also been granted a patent for its technology used in Project glass.
However, Google’s patent is very specific to Project Glass with it describing a display which can be integrated to wearable gear that also has an embedded finger-controlled input system.
Google has revealed that early alpha versions of Project Glass will be made available to developers next year for $1,500 while there is no sign that Apple is far along developing their own Google Glass rival.
Nonetheless, we’ll be watching if and how Apple may use this patent in the future to squash rivals.
Image 1 from SMN on Flickr, Image 2 from Free Patents Online