Apple Invented an XR Headset Self-Correcting Face Camera System that Meta wanted and eventually hired Apple's Inventors
Last week the European Patent Office published a patent application from Apple relating to a future XR Headset with Self-Mixing sensors and optical components. The focus of the invention revolves around a crucial front camera system that could reset itself should the cameras become misaligned due to the user dropping the headset.
A Side Note of Interest: it appears that the 2014 no-poaching lawsuit that was settled in 2015 is alive and well in Silicon Valley. In this European patent filing, two out of three Apple inventors are now working for Zuckerberg's Meta. It would appear that Meta is going all out to stay on top of what Apple is doing regarding their upcoming XR Headset.
Apple notes in their European patent filing that a head-mounted device (XR Headset) may have optical components. The optical components may include optical modules that are used to provide images to a user's eyes. The head-mounted device may also have other optical components such as cameras.
Components in a head-mounted have the potential to experience misalignment if the device is subjected to stress during a drop event or other high stress event. To ensure that the device operates satisfactory, optical self-mixing sensors may be used to accurately measure the positions of components in the head-mounted device. Actuators may then move the optical components to compensate for any detected changes in position and/or other compensating action may be taken.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a top view of an illustrative head-mounted device. Support structures 12T may be formed from fabric, polymer, metal, and/or other material. The key components relating to this invention include optical modules #40, actuators #43 and cameras #46.
The headset device may have one or more cameras with forward-facing (front-facing) cameras allowing the headset to monitor movement of the headset relative to the environment surrounding the headset (e.g., the cameras may be used in forming a visual odometry system or part of a visual inertial odometry system).
The cameras may be sensitive at infrared wavelengths (e.g., cameras may be infrared cameras), may be sensitive at visible wavelengths (e.g., cameras may be visible cameras), and/or cameras may be sensitive at other wavelengths. If desired, cameras may be sensitive at both visible and infrared wavelengths.
Apple's patent FIGS. 8 and 10 are cross-sectional side views of illustrative optical systems with self-mixing sensors. FIG. 8 illustrates a single sensor system while FIG. 10 illustrates a 3-sensor system; FIG. 14 is a flow chart of illustrative operations associated with operating an electronic device with a self-mixing sensor.
For more details, review Apple's European patent application number 4136495 that was published on February 22, 2023.
- Zac Granger: Senior Optical Engineer at Apple
- Mehmet Mutlu: Engineering Manager, Display Optics (Now with Meta)
- Serhan Isikman: Senior Manager, Display Optics (Now with Meta)