With Apple Vision Pro now a reality, it's safe to assume that various engineering teams at Apple, under their headset team, are working on multiple future HMD devices including an entry-level Vision headset, future smartglasses and perhaps, according to 17 patents on record, a media glasses accessory for iPhone.
While Androiders usually go bonkers learning about Apple's invention, claiming that Samsung did this year's ago, the fact is that it was Apple who originally patented the concept way back in 2008, just a little after the original iPhone came to market. Samsung's Galaxy Gear VR was a simpleton's design that came out 6 or 7 years later after learning that Apple was working on a VR headset. Samsung rushed the product to market and it's now in the tech device dust bin.
This week the U.S. Patent Office published Apple's 17th patent on this single device concept, constantly tweaking this type of device. In 2019, Apple refreshed this concept with a modern iPhone and headset that would work with future AirPods and an over-ear headset (AirPods Max). Other related patents covered prescript lenses (even for contacts), how the display would run in regular mode and theater mode and so forth.
In this current granted patent Apple notes "In accordance with another embodiment of the invention, there is provided a method of controlling a portable electronic device having a screen capable of presenting image based content, wherein the portable electronic device presents the image based content in a normal viewing mode that substantially fills the screen during normal use of the portable electronic device. The method may also include switching to a head-mounted mode on the screen of the portable electronic device (i.e., configures the display screen for HMD viewing). For example, based on a default settings, the portable electronic device may be configured for close up head mounted viewing (either directly or via instructions from the head mounted device 102).
As another example, the head-mounted display system can operate in a picture in picture (“PIP”) mode. In the PIP mode, a PIP image frame can be partially overlaid on top of the standard viewing image frame(s). As yet another example, the head-mounted display system can operate in an external viewing mode, which allows the user to view the outside world.
The patent figures below are from Tuesday's patent, though they stem back to Apple's original 2008 patent filing. We've added some needed notes to point out the features of interest. Patent FIG. 7 below shows a side view of a head-mounted device coupled to a portable electronic device. In this patent figure, Apple is presenting a "Clip-On" style HMD; FIG. 3A illustrates a "Slide In" style / form factor where the iPhone / media player is slid into a compartment in the glasses accessory. In this figure, Apple shows that a remote control (maybe Apple TV remote) can be used to control content seen on screen when in the glasses accessory.
In Apple's latest update to this invention published on Tuesday, they list 20 new patent claims clearly presented at the bottom of the granted patent. In this round of updates, Apple describes the use of a "touch sensor" for sensing a finger sliding on the temple of the glasses that could control audio volume; placing a camera on the front frame; working with Siri; a button(s) for turning on the glasses and returning to the home screen; and the hinges for the glasses.
For finer details and to review Apple's new 20 patents claims, review Apple's granted patent 11716412.