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Apple adds 20 new "System" Patent Claims to further Protect their VR Headset's 'Tunable Lens' System

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Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a continuation patent from Apple that relates to their patent titled "Electronic Device with a Tunable Lens." The invention relates to a tunable lens system that's primarily for Apple's future VR Headset and possibly for glasses further down the road.

 

Apple notes in their patent that head-mounted devices typically include lenses with fixed shapes and properties. If care is not taken, it may be difficult to adjust these types of lenses to optimally present content to each user of the head-mounted device.

 

Apple's solution was to design an advanced lens module in the head-mounted device that would have first and second lens elements separated by a liquid-filled gap with an adjustable thickness.

 

Then a pump or other component may control how much liquid is forced from a liquid reservoir into the liquid-filled gap. The first and second lens elements may form a catadioptric lens having a thickness that depends upon the adjustable thickness of the liquid-filled gap.

 

A lens module in the head-mounted device may include first and second fluid-filled chambers and first and second flexible membranes. Control circuitry in the head-mounted device may control a first amount of fluid in the first fluid-filled chamber and a second amount of fluid in the second fluid-filled chamber to adjust curvature of the first flexible membrane and curvature the second flexible membrane.

 

Apple's patent FIG. 2 below is a top view of a Head Mounted Display system. Each lens element of lens module #72 may be formed from any desired transparent material (e.g., glass, a polymer material such as polycarbonate or acrylic, a crystal such as sapphire, etc.).

 

2 tunable lens

 

Apple's patent FIG. 4A is cross-sectional side view of an illustrative head-mounted device with a catadioptric lens that includes two lens elements separated by a fluid-filled gap having a variable thickness. For more on this, review our original March 2020 patent report here.

 

Today's patent report isn't about a new invention application but rather a continuation patent wherein Apple is updating and/or adding specific technologies, features and/or methods that they want to legally extend, protect and fold into their granted patent which is legally permitted. Any change and/or addition to their invention is restricted to Apple's patent claims that are legally binding. 

 

Apple's December 2020 granted patent covered 23 patent claims with all covering "The System." In today's published continuation patent, Apple extends their patent claims with 20 all-new claims and once again, all of the new patent claims cover more details about "The System" that Apple wants to further protect.

 

Below are Apple's 20 added patent claims in full that cover new aspects of the invention.

 

  1. A system, comprising: a head-mounted support structure; a display that emits light; a lens module supported by the head-mounted support structure that receives the light from the display, wherein the lens module comprises a flexible lens element with a periphery and a plurality of actuators around the periphery of the flexible lens element; and control circuitry configured to control the plurality of actuators to dynamically adjust the flexible lens element.
  1. The system defined in claim 1, wherein each actuator is configured to pull radially outward on the periphery of the flexible lens element away from a center of the flexible lens element.
  1. The system defined in claim 1, wherein each actuator is a piezoelectric actuator.
  1. The system defined in claim 1, wherein each actuator is a linear electromagnetic actuator.
  1. The system defined in claim 1, wherein each actuator is configured to selectively press the periphery of the flexible lens element.
  1. The system defined in claim 1, further comprising: a gaze detection sensor configured to obtain gaze information, wherein the control circuitry is configured to control the actuators based on the gaze information.
  1. The system defined in claim 1, wherein the plurality of actuators comprises more than four actuators around the periphery of the flexible lens element and wherein the lens module further comprises a load-spreading ring that extends around the periphery of the flexible lens element.
  1. The system defined in claim 1, wherein the plurality of actuators comprises more than six actuators around the periphery of the flexible lens element.
  1. The system defined in claim 1, wherein the flexible lens element at least partially defines a fluid-filled chamber.
  1. The system defined in claim 9, wherein the control circuitry is configured to change an amount of fluid in the fluid-filled chamber.
  1. A system, comprising: a head-mounted support structure; a display that emits light; a lens module supported by the head-mounted support structure that receives the light from the display, wherein the lens module comprises first and second flexible membranes, wherein the first flexible membrane has linear stiffness variation in a first direction, and wherein the second flexible membrane has linear stiffness variation in a second direction that is perpendicular to the first direction; and control circuitry configured to control the lens module to adjust curvature of the first flexible membrane and curvature of the second flexible membrane for astigmatism correction.
  1. The system defined in claim 11, wherein the lens module further comprises a first fluid-filled chamber at least partially defined by the first flexible membrane.
  1. The system defined in claim 12, wherein the lens module further comprises a second fluid-filled chamber at least partially defined by the second flexible membrane.
  1. The system defined in claim 13, wherein the control circuitry is configured to change a first amount of fluid in the first fluid-filled chamber and a second amount of fluid in the second fluid-filled chamber to adjust the curvature of the first flexible membrane and the curvature the second flexible membrane.
  1. The system defined in claim 11, wherein the lens module further comprises: actuators around a periphery of the first flexible membrane, wherein the control circuitry is configured to control the actuators to dynamically adjust the curvature of the first flexible membrane.
  1. A system, comprising: a head-mounted support structure; a display that emits light; and a lens module supported by the head-mounted support structure that receives the light from the display, wherein the lens module includes a fluid-filled chamber, a semi-rigid lens element that at least partially defines the fluid-filled chamber, and at least one actuator configured to selectively bend the semi-rigid lens element.
  1. The system defined in claim 16, wherein the lens module further comprises a rigid lens element that at least partially defines the fluid-filled chamber, wherein the rigid lens element and the semi-rigid lens element are parallel in a first state in which the semi-rigid lens element is not bent by the at least one actuator, and wherein the rigid lens element and the semi-rigid lens element are not parallel in a second state and wherein the at least one actuator selectively bends the semi-rigid lens element in the second state.
  2. The system defined in claim 16, wherein the lens module further comprises a rigid lens element that at least partially defines the fluid-filled chamber and wherein the lens module further comprises a tunable spherical lens and wherein the rigid lens element is interposed between the tunable spherical lens and the semi-rigid lens element.
  1. The system defined in claim 16, wherein the semi-rigid lens element has a spherically convex surface and a spherically concave surface in a first state in which the semi-rigid lens element is not bent by the at least one actuator and wherein the lens module further comprises a tunable spherical lens that is configured to offset a parasitic spherical lens power generated by the semi-rigid lens element in a second state in which the semi-rigid lens element is bent by the at least one actuator.
  1. The system defined in claim 16, wherein the at least one actuator comprises more than four actuators that are evenly distributed around a periphery of the semi-rigid lens element, wherein the lens module further comprises a load-spreading ring that extends around the periphery of the semi-rigid lens element, and wherein the semi-rigid lens element is formed from a material that has a Young's modulus greater than 2 gigapascals (GPa).

 

Apple's continuation patent 20210041705 was filed in October 2020 and published today by the U.S. Patent Office. Considering that this is a continuation patent, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.

 

10.51XF - Continuation Patent Report Bar

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