Prior to Apple's great event that's scheduled for later this morning – the US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 47 newly granted patents for Apple today. In this particular report we specifically cover Apple's invention relating to a personal head mounted display system. The system could be used for watching movies to give users the experience that they were actually in a theater. The system could also be used for multiplayer video games that would put users right into the action like never before. Apple's invention was well ahead of the Oculus Rift and Samsung's latest Gear VR product on paper. Whether Apple has any intention of delivering such a device in the future that could work independently or with a future version of Apple TV is unknown at this time.
Apple invented a video headset back in 2006 and was granted a patent for it in September 2009. Since that time Apple has added a few inventions to keep their project evolving over time (one, two), with the most recent mention of a headset being noted in a patent application relating to hidden audio sensors. Over the weekend we covered a patent that Apple acquired from PrimeSense regarding an advanced headset to add to Apple's patent portfolio on head mounted displays. Today, the US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a knockout granted patent for a detailed head mounted head display that resembles the Oculus Rift which is the buzz of the gaming world at the moment. Apple's patent makes it clear that gaming is one of the main entertainment options for this device. It's also designed to be a personal display system so that you could enjoy full HD widescreen experiences on the go with your iPhone or at Home with your Apple TV. Without a doubt, it's the surprise granted patent of the year.
In July we reported that Apple was in the race to acquire PrimeSense and last month the news was official. Little did we know at the time that Apple's Tel Aviv research center was already working on sensing technologies specializing in three-dimensional analysis of body and facial movements, and so the acquisition of PrimeSense was a perfect fit to advance future projects. A quick look at PrimeSense's website will show you that Apple has acquired a company that possesses a lot of real-world technology that could advance many Apple products in the future. Today's report takes a peek at a few of the patents that Apple has inherited.
Back in late March Apple acquired indoor-GPS Company called WifiSLAM signaling that Apple could be entering the indoor mobile location services business sometime in the future. WifiSLAM's software allows a user's smartphone to pinpoint its location (and the location of friends) in real-time to 2.5m accuracy using only ambient WiFi signals that are already present in buildings. Today, a key patent application from Apple titled "3D Position Tracking for Panoramic Imagery Navigation" was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. On one hand, the patent is about bringing detailed street-views to Apple's Map application. On the other hand, we get a smidgen of understanding as to why Apple acquired WifiSLAM. Apple's patent filing is very stingy in providing us with details about the second half of their invention. Apple states that "In some implementations, forward and backward translation enables the user to enter an indoor panorama of a structure (e.g., a commercial venue), " like a store for making a purchase. Although Apple has recently taken a bruising over their Map application's turn-by-turn navigation inaccuracies, it's crystal clear that they're charging ahead with determination to bring newly advanced services to Maps in the future.
Earlier this week, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a very special granted patent of Apple's relating to a Head Mounted Display system. The Los Angeles Time mistakenly reported that "Apple may be taking a page out of Google's book." No, no, no. Apple's patent predates the iPhone while Google's patent is shown to have been filed be in 2011. So if anything, it's Google taking a page out of Apple's book, again. Admittedly, Google's vision for video glasses does in fact appear to be far more aggressive than Apple's humble aspirations, but it may be more realistic. Apple's main focus is connecting the headset to an iDevice in order to watch movies. Its secondary focus is shown to be working with telephony and the internet. Yet considering that the patent was actually filed prior to the iPhone debuting, the idea was way ahead of its time. Apple's patent presents us with a grand overview of the optical options that they're considering for this device and hints that it'll be mainly aimed at consumer entertainment and gaming.
A new rumor that is now breaking states that Apple may have acquired a new high-end 3D mapping company that uses true photorealistic visuals which could integrate augmented reality. The company known as C3 Technologies already has the technology running on an iPad that was noted in a February 2011 video demonstration. The technology originated from a Swedish Military spin-off company that used the realtime photorealistic technology on their fighter planes.
On August 18, 2011, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals one of the next chapters for Apple's "Map + Compass" iOS feature. In the future, you'll be able to capture an intersection on your iPhone's camera and do a search based on that image. If you're looking for the Golden Gate Bridge while visiting San Francisco, Apple's Maps + Compass feature will be able to superimpose the directions from your current location to where you want to go. It will include turn by turn instructions according to Apple's documentation. Apple's hire of founder and CEO of PlaceBase, an advanced digital mapping firm, illustrates just how eager they are in advancing Maps + Compass for iOS devices with augmented reality. In fact, in typical Apple fashion, their new augmented application features will go far beyond just software. Apple has clearly indicated that they're developing a new interactive augmented reality 3D display that is considered to be a smart transparent display. This is what creates Apple's "Magic" product feature declarations when introducing a new product feature that drives the competition and critics crazy. Now you know that it's magic for very sophisticated reasons. It's a perfect blend of advanced hardware and software that few could match.
Last Thursday a number of very interesting patents surfaced at the US Patent and Trademark Office that Patently Apple amply covered. Yet a couple of minor yet interesting patent applications came to light that we thought shouldn't go unreported. The first one covers a new schematic mapping system for iOS devices, especially those with smaller displays such as the iPhone and iPod touch. The new schematic mapping technology will present maps that are very much like those that you'd see in a typical subway station. While the subway track itself may actually twist and turn from station to station, a typical subway map only represents the subway route as being in a straight line. Apple wants to simplify the mapping-out of routes for users by providing schematic routes to destinations. The second patent is an interesting one for business travels who would like their iPhone to carry a secondary mobile profile so that they could operate it in a foreign country without roaming charges.
In early June a patent application from Apple surfaced describing a very sophisticated infrared camera system. One of the key aspects of that patent was its potential use with portable devices like an iPhone in places like a museum. The patent discussed the interrelation between an infrared camera in a future iPhone working seamlessly with infrared emitters located throughout a museum, for example. In that scenario, the iPhone user would hold their iPhone up to shoot a video or photograph an artifact while the museum's infrared emitter would send additional information to your iPhone describing said artifact. Marrying the live photo or video with descriptions of the artifact would appear as a seamless image on your iPhone. It would be like having a private tour guide of the museum with you at all times. Today, another piece of that puzzle came together in a new patent application from Apple describing the use of dual transparent displays working in conjunction with dual backside device cameras to provide users with the ultimate augmented reality application.
On June 2, 2011, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that revealed various concepts behind a newly advanced next generation camera system that could employ infrared technology. On one side, the new system would go a long way in assisting the music and movie industries by automatically disabling camera functions when trying to photograph or film a movie or concert. On the other hand, the new system could turn your iOS device into a kind of automated tour guide for museums or cityscapes as well as eventually being an auto retail clerk providing customers with price, availability and product information. The technology behind Apple's patent application holds a lot of potential.
Over the last year, a number of very interesting Apple patents have come to light concerning various technologies that at the time of their publication were simply seen as islands of information unto themselves. Yet in hindsight, I can now see that yet another major Apple trend has emerged in 2009, that of Augmented Reality. I didn't recognize the extent of Apple's involvement in this area of technology until I had read a recent report filed by Nikkei Electronics Asia on this very subject. Once I saw the examples that were being presented in that report, the related Apple patents were easily recognizable. This report takes a peek at the magic that the Cupertino Mages are now conjuring up for us in future products and wonder if we're not actually looking at the beginning phases of some kind of new sixth sense.