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Apple won their 16th Patent for an Entry-Level HMD + iPhone combo device that for the first time adds an AR Twist

1 cover - entry-level HMD


On August 10th Patently Apple posted an IP report titled "Apple has Won its 15th Granted Patent for a future Entry-Level Headset for iTunes, Movies, TV shows, Games & Apps." Apple has been continually researching and developing this project since Q3 2008 if not longer. This week Apple was granted their 16th granted patent for this invention titled "Display device with Optical Combiner."


Apple's 16th granted patent brings a major new dimension to this project, augmented reality.


Apple states in their patent background that optical systems may be used to provide images to a viewer. In some optical systems, it is desirable for both computer-generated and real-world images to be viewed simultaneously. In this type of system, an optical combiner can be used to merge image light from a display with real-world image light. If care is not taken, however, stray light reflections in an optical combiner or excessive light from an external object can adversely affect system performance.


Apple's granted patent covers an optical system that may include equipment with a housing that is configured to receive external equipment such as a cellular telephone (iPhone). The housing may be a head-mountable housing (HMD).


The iPhone may have a display mounted on a front face and have additional components such as a front-facing camera. Communications circuitry in the equipment may support wired and wireless communications with the iPhone.


An optical combiner in the equipment may be used to combine display image light emitted from pixels in the display with real-world image light received from external objects.


The optical combiner may have a reflector with a concave lens shape that redirects and focuses light from the display towards eye boxes in which a viewer's eyes are located.


With one arrangement, the reflector may be a partial mirror. An optical component such as a circular polarizer may overlap the front-facing camera without overlapping the display on the front face of the cellular telephone to suppress stray light reflections from the display into the front-facing camera.


With another arrangement, the reflector may be a reflective polarizer. The reflective polarizer and additional components such as layers of electrodes, additional polarizer layers, and a liquid crystal layer may be used in implementing a tunable tint layer.


In some mixed reality systems, displays present computer-generated content that is overlaid on top of real-world images. An optical system may use an optical combiner to combine light from real-world images with image light from a display. The optical combiner may include a tunable tint layer.


The tunable tint layer may be used to selectively adjust the amount of real-world image light that is passing to a viewer relative to the computer-generated (virtual reality) content from the display.


Apple's patent FIG.1 below illustrates a diagram of an illustrative optical system; FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative and detailed optical system.


2 Apple Granted patent figures for HMD + iPhone combination device


The system will also allow a user to enjoy other types of content such as movies, TV and games.


In FIG. 1 Apple lists Input-output devices #16 in association with the HMD segment of the combined device. Input-output devices may be used to gather user input from a user, may be used to make measurements on the environment surrounding the HMD, may be used to provide output to a user, and/or may be used to supply output to external electronic equipment.


Input-output devices may include buttons, joysticks, keypads, keyboard keys, touch sensors, track pads, displays, touch screen displays, microphones, speakers, light-emitting diodes and/or lasers for providing a user with visual output, and sensors (e.g., force sensors, temperature sensors, magnetic sensor, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and/or other sensors for measuring orientation, position, and/or movement of optical system #8, proximity sensors, capacitive touch sensors, strain gauges, gas sensors, pressure sensors, ambient light sensors, and/or other sensors).


Devices could also include cameras (digital image sensors) for capturing images of the user's surroundings, cameras for performing gaze detection operations.  Further, the device may include depth sensors (e.g., sensors using structured light and/or using binocular cameras). In some configurations, light-based and/or radio-frequency-based sensors may be used for external object tracking (e.g., lidar, radar, and/or other detection and ranging applications).


Lastly, the housing of the HMD may be formed from glass, polymer, metal, fabric, natural materials, ceramic, and/or other materials.


To get into the details behind the optical combiner, review Apple's granted patent 11,099,386 issued on August 24, 2021.


The Inventors

Apple's granted patent was backed by some of Apple's top display and optical engineers averaging 8 years at Apple


Graham Myhre, PhD: Senior Engineering Manager of Display Exploration

Johnny (Hyungryul) Choi: Engineering Manager. His bio states this he leads a team investigating new displays and optical technology for future Apple products. 

Lei Zhao: Display/Optics Engineer. Zhao is part of Apple's Special Project Group Display Engineering. Zhao worked on the 12.9" iPad Pro and first iPad with a Variable Refresh Rate Display.

Chaohao Wang: Senior Display Technology Manager

Mike Dorjgotov: Engineering Manager, Display Optics and Platform Technologies

Zhibing Ge: Zhibing Ge is the Senior Manager, Engineering

Fan Jiang; Shih-Chyuan: Couldn't find a profile.


10.52FX - Granted Patent Bar


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