A new Head-Mounted Display System Invention from Apple for Mixed Reality & Holographic Content Surfaced in Europe
Today Patently Apple discovered a newly published patent application from Apple in Europe that relates to devices with displays, and, more particularly, to head-mounted displays that supports AR, VR and Holographic content. According to Apple, the lenses will be tunable and the headset will be able to use Siri for controls and more.
Scope of the invention: The scope of Apple's head-mounted display system invention may also cover devices such as portable consumer electronics (e.g., portable electronic devices such as cellular telephones, tablet computers, glasses and other wearable equipment), head-up displays in cockpits, vehicles, etc., display-based equipment (projectors, televisions, etc.). Devices such as these may include displays and other optical components. The system will support and provide mixed reality (virtual reality and/or augmented reality) content to these devices.
Patent Background: Head-mounted displays may be used to display virtual reality and augmented reality content. A head-mounted display that is displaying augmented reality content may overlay computer-generated images on real-world objects. Displays and optical systems may be used to create images and to present those images to a user.
If care is not taken, however, the components used in displaying content for a user in a head-mounted display may be unsightly and bulky and may not exhibit desired levels of optical performance.
Apple's invention: Head-Mounted Display System
An electronic device such as a head-mounted display may have a display system that produces images. An optical system with one or more waveguides and input and output coupler systems may be used to distribute the images to a user.
The display system may have one or more pixel arrays such as liquid-crystal-on-silicon pixel arrays. Images from the display system may be coupled into one or more waveguides by an input coupler system and may be coupled out of the waveguide in multiple image planes using an output coupler system.
The input and output coupler systems may include single couplers, stacks of couplers, and tiled arrays of couplers. The couplers may be thin planar volume holograms or other optical couplers for coupling light into and out of the upper and lower surfaces of elongated strip-shaped waveguides.
Multiplexing techniques such as wavelength multiplexing, polarization multiplexing, time-division multiplexing, angular multiplexing with image light having different ranges of angular orientations, and/or lens tunable techniques may be used to present images to a user in multiple image planes.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic diagram of an illustrative head-mounted display.
The Head-mounted display #10 may include input-output circuitry #52 that may be used to allow data to be received by the head-mounted display from external equipment (e.g., a tethered computer, a portable device such as a handheld device or laptop computer) and to allow a user to provide the head-mounted display with user input. Output components in circuitry #52 may allow the head-mounted display to provide a user with output and may be used to communicate with external electrical equipment.
Cameras or other devices in input-output circuitry #52 may face a user's eyes and may track a user's gaze. Sensors #70 may include position and motion sensors (e.g., compasses, gyroscopes, accelerometers, and/or other devices for monitoring the location, orientation, and movement of head-mounted display #10, satellite navigation system circuitry such as Global Positioning System circuitry for monitoring user location, etc.).
Using sensors #70, for example, control circuitry #50 can monitor the current direction in which a user's head is oriented relative to the surrounding environment. Movements of the user's head (e.g., motion to the left and/or right to track on-screen objects and/or to view additional real-world objects) may also be monitored using sensors.
Support structure #16, shown in patent FIG. 2 below, may be configured to form a frame of a pair of glasses (e.g., left and right temples and other frame members), may be configured to form a helmet, may be configured to form a pair of goggles, or may have other head-mountable configurations.
The optical system may be configured to display different images from displays #26 in different image planes #94 (e.g., virtual image locations at different respective distances from user #90). This allows distant objects (e.g., mountain peaks in a landscape) to be presented in a distant image plane (see, e.g., far-field image plane #94D) and allows close objects (e.g., the face of a person in the user's field of view) to be presented in a close image plane (see, e.g., near-field image plane #94N), providing the user with three-dimensional image content. Yet other objects (sec, e.g., virtual object 30V) may be presented in intermediate-distance image planes (e.g., intermediate image plane #94-I, which is the same distance from the user as external object #30 in the example of FIG. 2 below). By displaying far objects in distant image planes and close objects in nearby image planes, three-dimensional imagery may be displayed naturally for the user with minimal eye fatigue and discomfort.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 above is a top view of an illustrative head-mounted display.
Holographic System: Apple's patent FIG. 6 below is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative optical system having a waveguide, laterally adjacent (tiled) pixel arrays, and associated holographic input couplers and stacked holographic output couplers that are each responsive to light rays with different ranges of angles of orientation for presenting images in multiple image planes in a head-mounted display.
Tunable Lenses: Apple's patent FIG. 13 below is a diagram of an illustrative optical system with a tunable lens, a waveguide, and input and output couplers for presenting images in multiple image planes.
Sensors: Apple notes that their head-mounted device will include force sensors, temperature sensors, touch sensors, capacitive proximity sensors, light-based proximity sensors, other proximity sensors, strain gauges, gas sensors, pressure sensors, moisture sensors, magnetic sensors, etc.
Audio Components: Audio components may include microphones for gathering voice commands and other audio input and speakers for providing audio output (e.g., ear buds, bone conduction speakers, or other speakers for providing sound to the left and right ears of a user).
Haptics: input-output devices may include haptic output devices (e.g., vibrating components), light-emitting diodes and other light sources, and other output components.
Wireless Communications: Circuitry may include wired and wireless communications circuitry that allows the head-mounted display to communicate with external equipment (e.g., remote controls, joysticks and other input controllers, portable electronic devices, computers, displays, etc.) and that allows signals to be conveyed between components (circuitry) at different locations in head-mounted display.
Apple's patent application was originally filed back in Q1 2018 and published in Europe in September 13, 2018.
Our cover graphic is from Apple's 2013 granted patent for a HMD. Today's patent filing from Apple is a utility patent which means that it's focused on the mechanics of the invention and not the look of a device. This isn't a design patent, so any head-mounted display imagery from Apple is merely to convey a type of device. Apple fans know that whatever future HMD that Apple launches, be it a headset or glasses, Jony Ive and team will deliver a slick end user design.
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