Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to devices with displays, and, more particularly, to head-mounted displays. More specifically, Apple notes that "A head-mounted device such as a pair of augmented reality glasses that is worn on the head of a user may be used to provide a user with computer-generated content that is overlaid on top of real-world content."
Apple's invention covers a head-mounted device that may have a transparent display. The transparent display may be formed from a display panel that provides images to a user through an optical coupler.
A user may view real-world objects through the optical coupler while control circuitry directs the transparent display to display computer-generated content over selected portions of the real-world objects.
Adjustable Opacity System with Photochromic Layer
Apple further notes that the head-mounted display may include an adjustable opacity system. The adjustable opacity system may include an adjustable opacity layer such as a photochromic layer that overlaps the optical coupler and a light source that selectively exposes the adjustable opacity layer to light to control the opacity of the adjustable opacity layer.
The light source may emit ultraviolet light to control the adjustable opacity layer. The adjustable opacity layer may block or dim light from the real-world objects to allow improved contrast when displaying computer-generated content over the real-world objects.
The light source for the photochromic layer may share an optical coupler with a display unit that generates images for viewing by the user.
Alternatively, the light source may emit light into a first optical coupler that redirects the light towards selected portions of the photochromic layer, whereas the display unit may emit display light into a second optical coupler that redirects the display light towards the viewer.
A heating element may be positioned adjacent the adjustable opacity layer to heat the adjustable opacity layer. The optical coupler and adjustable opacity layer may be interposed between first and second filter layers that block light from the light source for the adjustable opacity system.
Ultraviolet light absorbing material may also be included in the head-mounted device to prevent stray ultraviolet light from reaching the user's eyes.
A head-mounted device such as a pair of augmented reality glasses that is worn on the head of a user may be used to provide a user with computer-generated content that is overlaid on top of real-world content.
The real-world content may be viewed directly by a user (e.g., by observing real-world objects through a transparent display panel or through an optical coupler in a transparent display system that merges light from real-world objects with light from a display panel).
Configurations in which images or real-world objects are captured by a forward-facing camera and displayed for a user on a display may also be used.
As always, Apple doesn't want their technology restricted to a single device and so Apple expands its possible use in the following devices: Head-mounted devices for virtual reality and augmented reality systems. These devices may include portable consumer electronics (e.g., portable electronic devices such as cellular telephones, tablet computers, glasses, other wearable equipment), head-up displays in cockpits, vehicles, etc., display-based equipment (projectors, televisions, etc.). Devices such as these may include transparent displays and other optical components.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic diagram of an illustrative head-mounted device
The head-mounted device may include adjustable components stacked in series with display #26 as shown above. For example, the head-mounted device may include an adjustable polarizer, liquid crystal tunable lenses, tunable lenses based on electrooptic materials, tunable liquid lenses, microelectromechanical systems tunable lenses, or other tunable lenses and an adjustable color filter.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 below is a diagram of an illustrative transparent display with a tunable lens and a partially reflective element that serves as an optical coupler to direct images from one or more non-transparent display panels to a user; FIG. 5 is a diagram of an illustrative adjustable opacity system where a light source selectively exposes each light modulating pixel of a photochromic layer to light to control the opacity of each light modulating pixel.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 above is a top view of an illustrative head-mounted device with support structures that support an optical coupler and a photochromic layer for an adjustable opacity system.
Apple's patent application that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Qx1 2019 with work on this invention dating back to Q2 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
David "DK" Kalinowski: Product design (mechanical engineering) lead for new product category at Apple. In charge of technical execution on a small team of engineers; exceptionally high performing team.
Johnny (Hyungryul) Choi: Engineering Manager; Investigates new display and optical technologies for future Apple products
Jae Hwang Lee: Product Design Manager; A new category product and technologies; Mechanical design, Technology investigation/feasibility study, Prototyping, Product definition.