Apple Invents Mixed Reality Smart Gloves Designed to provide VR Gamers with Heightened Sensory Experiences
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to the sensing of surface quality and, more particularly, to the sensing of surface quality using self-mixing interferometry. While Apple's patent focuses on both a future VR smart glove system and Apple Pencil using SMI sensors, it's the VR smart glove that could be interesting to those who like gaming.
While graphics in Apple's VR headset will be stunning, to be sure, the use of smart gloves with games will allow users to feel like they're really touching elements in a new world or elements under water or the walls of a tunnel to make the environments you're in so much more realistic than ever experienced before. It will add a whole new level of sensory experiences.
Apple's patent relates to self-mixing interferometry (SMI) based surface quality sensing. The technology could make devices like Apple Pencil a smart glove or smart ring more compact. It will allow devices to consume less power, and operate at a higher speed than existing mechanical surface profiles and/or image-based surface quality sensors.
As an example, a set of SMI sensors and an associated processing system may be incorporated into a glove that may sense the surface qualities of objects while the glove's user navigates an AR or VR environment.
Apple's patent FIG. 1B below illustrates an example of a wearable device that includes a set of one or more SMI sensors.
In some embodiments beyond smart gloves, such as is seen in patent FIGS. 11A and 11B below, the operations may include animating, in an AR or VR environment, an interaction between a virtual object and the target. The animating may be performed responsive to the surface quality of the target. For example, in an AR or VR environment that depicts a virtual balloon on a display, the AR or VR environment may animate a "popping" of the balloon if 1) the balloon virtually comes into contact with the target, and 2) the surface quality of the target is rough enough that it would typically cause the balloon to pop. This would be SMI sensors in the headset making it realistic.
For Apple Pencil, the use of SMI sensors will allow the user or artist to better feel various surfaces so the pen will feel one way when writing on virtual paper or painting on a canvas or wall.
For example, a set of SMI sensors and processing system coupled thereto may be incorporated into a stylus (or electronic pen, pencil, or brush) that can be used to write, draw, or paint on any surface while rendering, on an associated electronic display, a line quality (or stroke) that corresponds to the surface quality (e.g., the roughness or waviness) of the surface on which the user is writing, drawing, or painting.
Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.