Apple Invents a Future VR/AR Headset that Delivers Images Directly to the user's Pupils via mini-projectors
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a continuation patent application from Apple titled "Dynamic Focus 3D Display." The focus of Apple's patent is on a direct retinal projector system that provides dynamic focusing for an HMD's display delivering superior quality virtual reality (VR) and/or augmented reality (AR) content over conventional methods of presenting the content on the headset's display.
Apple's patent covers methods and an apparatus for providing dynamic focusing in virtual reality (VR) and/or augmented reality (AR) systems. Conventional VR systems project left and right images onto screens that are viewed by a subject. A direct retinal projector system, however, scans the images, pixel by pixel, directly onto the subject's retinas.
This aspect of direct retinal projector systems allows individual pixels to be optically affected dynamically as the images are scanned to the subject's retinas. Embodiments of dynamic focusing components and techniques are described that may be used in a direct retinal projector system to dynamically and correctly focus each pixel in VR images as the images are being scanned to a subject's eyes.
This allows VR/AR content that is intended to appear at different depths in a scene to be projected to the subject's eyes at the correct depths. Thus, the dynamic focusing components and techniques for direct retinal projector systems may help to reduce or eliminate the convergence-accommodation conflict in VR systems.
A VR or AR headset system is described that may include or implement the dynamic focusing components and techniques in a direct retinal projector system.
Apple's patent FIG. 14 below is a logical block diagram of a frame for a VR/AR device; FIG. 15 is a logical block diagram of a device that provides augmented reality (AR) to a subject
Apple's patent FIG. 8 below is logical block diagram of a virtual reality (VR) and/or augmented reality (AR) device.
Apple's patent FIG. 10A below illustrates a side view and an inner surface view of a curved ellipsoid mirror (#415) which reflects and focuses the light field from the scanning mirror into the subject's eye pupil, thus simplifying the optics and reducing the scanning degrees of freedom required when compared to conventional systems.
In some embodiments, the curved ellipsoid mirror 415 may be "see through", i.e. allowing at least some light from the subject's environment to pass through, thus enabling a much more natural augmented reality (AR) experience. For example, AR content projected by the direct retinal projector system may be "overlaid" on or viewed in the environmental scene that the subject is viewing.
Apple's patent FIG. 10B above illustrates light from a curved ellipsoid mirror of a direct retinal projector striking the pupil at different positions
Apple's continuation patent application 20200304771 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in June 2020. Since we didn't cover the original granted patent, we're covered this patent more like a patent application, since Apple bypassed the patent application phase. For those who want to dive into the patent's full details, click here. Considering that this is a continuation patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.