Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a future Head-Mounted Device (HMD) that will include a unique adjustable lens system to accommodate consumers with a wide range of vision deficiencies from myopia (near sightedness) to hyperopia (farsightedness) and everything in between. Users will be able to wear Apple's HMD without the need of glasses so that they could comfortably enjoy playing games and entertainment content with the HMD having a snug fit on their face.
In Apple's patent background they note that head-mounted devices are provided with head-mounted structures that allow the devices to be worn on a user's head. The head-mounted devices may include optical systems with lenses. The lenses allow displays in the devices to present visual content to users. However, head-mounted devices typically include lenses with fixed shapes and properties. In such cases, it may be difficult or impossible to adjust these types of lenses to optimally present content to each user of the head-mounted device.
Apple's invention covers a head-mounted device that includes a display that displays content for a user. The head-mounted device may have respective left and right lens modules and respective left and right portions of a display.
A lens module in the head-mounted device may include one or more adjustable lens elements.
An adjustable lens element may include a transparent substrate, a collapsible wall that forms an enclosed perimeter on the transparent substrate, and a flexible membrane on the collapsible wall that together define an interior volume. The interior volume may be filled with a fluid.
The adjustable lens element may include a lens shaping component that applies a force to the collapsible wall to adjust a height of the collapsible wall relative to the transparent substrate, which in turn may be used to adjust the shape of the flexible membrane and the lens power of the lens element.
The collapsible wall may have bellows that allow the collapsible wall to fold on itself when compressed, thereby minimizing unintended lateral movement of the collapsible wall.
The collapsible wall may include one or more reinforced portions (e.g., with embedded reinforcement structures and/or where portions of the wall are locally thickened or otherwise modified to be stiffer). If desired, the reinforced portions of the wall may be laterally offset from one another to avoid colliding with one another when the wall is compressed.
Control circuitry in the head-mounted device may control the actuators in the lens shaping component to dynamically adjust the lens power of the adjustable lens element. The lens shaping component may have non-uniform construction (e.g., non-uniform modulus of elasticity). One or more sensors and/or coatings may be used to detect leaks in the adjustable lens element.
Apple's granted patent FIG. 2 below is a cross-sectional side view an illustrative head-mounted device with a lens module that receives light from a display portion.
Apple further notes that Positioners (#58) may be stepper motors, piezoelectric actuators, motors, linear electromagnetic actuators, and/or other electronic components for adjusting the position of displays and lens modules. For example, positioners may be used to adjust the spacing between left and right display modules (and therefore the lens-to-lens spacing between the left and right lenses of modules) to match the interpupillary distance of a user's eyes.
It may be desirable to be able to adjust the lens power of lens module to accommodate users with different vision. For example, some users may have myopia (nearsightedness) whereas other users may have hyperopia (farsightedness).
Additionally, the vision of a user's left eye may be different from the vision of the user's right eye. In addition to or instead of adjusting the position of pixel array (#14) relative to lens module, each lens module may include one or more adjustable lens elements such as adjustable lens element #88 having a tunable (adjustable) lens power.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 below is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative adjustable lens element having a flexible membrane supported by a collapsible sidewall with bellows.
Apple's FIG. 9 above is a top view of an illustrative adjustable lens element having a lens shaping component.
To create an HMD that could eliminate the need for a user to wear prescription lenses/glasses has been an ambitious goal that Apple's engineering teams have been working on for years. Here are a few other patents on this subject that Apple's teams have worked on: 01, 02, 03, 04 and 05. Which patent or combination of patents will win the day? Only time will tell.
For more details, review Apple's patent application number 20210286108. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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Some of Apple's Inventors
Igor Stamenov: Senior Display Exploration Engineer
Ran He: Senior Hardware Development Engineer
Yuan Li: Machine Learning Engineer
Peng Lv: Hardware Engineer (Panel Process & Optics)