4 HMD patents published last week covered Optical Systems including a Corrective Lens System, Iris Authentication & more
On October 17, Patently Apple posted a report titled "HTC's new VIVE FLOW Immersive VR Glasses interestingly has a few key features that we've covered in a series of Apple patent reports" which you could check out here and here. The later Apple patent states: "a display module may include a catadioptric optical system (found in patent point #0047)."
A snippet from the HTC video is presented below where you could see the user will be able to move the dial above the lenses to adjust vision for both the left and right lenses to suit the user's visual needs without wearing prescription glasses. This provides us with a view of how it will likely work for Apple's HMD which describes this ability later in one of their patents published on Thursday.
On Thursday, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a series of patent applications relating to Apple's future mixed reality headset with each representing different technologies.
In this particular report we focus on the basics of Apple's patent application 20210325678 titled "Electronic Devices with Optical Modules."
Apple's patent abstract states that "A head-mounted device may have left and right optical modules that present images to a user's eyes. Each optical module may have an optical module support structure and a lens and display coupled to the optical module support structure. The head-mounted device may have a head-mounted housing that supports the optical modules."
In Apple's patent summary they more specifically add that "The head-mounted device may have removable vision-correction lenses to help accommodate users desiring individualized vision correction. Sets of magnets in the left and right optical modules may be configured to attract corresponding left and right vision correction lenses."
Apple's Patent FIG.1 below is a top view of a Head Mounted Device with a corrective lens system. Apple also notes that it may be desirable to use a camera to capture images of the user's irises (or other portions of the user's eyes) for user authentication; FIG. 2 is a rear view of an illustrative head-mounted device
Apple's patent FIG. 7 above is a rear view of an illustrative removable vision correction lens for an optical module.
More specifically, Apple's patent FIG. 7 presents a vision correction lens #50 that may have a vision correction lens frame #50F and a vision correction lens element #50L which may have a positive lens power or negative lens power and/or may be configured to correct for astigmatism.
Lens element #50L may be formed from molded polymer, glass, or other transparent lens material. Lens #50 may be removably attached to support structure (FIG. 1, #32) in alignment with lens #30 (FIGS. 1 & 2). As an example, a support structure of optical module #40 may have magnetic structures (e.g., magnets and/or iron bars or other members formed from magnetic material). Corresponding magnetic structures may be included in lens 50.
Beyond the specifics of the patent being a corrective lens system, Apple also provides a grand overview of Apple hardware relating to interacting with CGR environments beyond just their HMD.
Under "Hardware" Apple notes: "there are many different types of electronic systems that enable a person to sense and/or interact with various CGR environments. Examples include head mounted systems, projection-based systems, heads-up displays (HUDs), vehicle windshields having integrated display capability, windows having integrated display capability, displays formed as lenses designed to be placed on a person's eyes (e.g., similar to contact lenses), headphones/earphones, speaker arrays, input systems (e.g., wearable or handheld controllers with or without haptic feedback), smartphones, tablets, and desktop/laptop computers.
In another segment of their patent, Apple touches on varying kinds of sensors being contemplated for a future HMD. Sensors in input-output devices may include force sensors (e.g., strain gauges, capacitive force sensors, resistive force sensors, etc.), audio sensors such as microphones, touch and/or proximity sensors such as capacitive sensors such as a touch sensor that forms a button, trackpad, or other input device), and other sensors.
If desired, the sensors may include optical sensors such as optical sensors that emit and detect light, ultrasonic sensors, optical touch sensors, optical proximity sensors, and/or other touch sensors and/or proximity sensors, monochromatic and color ambient light sensors, image sensors, fingerprint sensors, iris scanning sensors, retinal scanning sensors, and other biometric sensors, temperature sensors, sensors for measuring three-dimensional non-contact gestures ("air gestures"), pressure sensors, sensors for detecting position, orientation, and/or motion (e.g., accelerometers, magnetic sensors such as compass sensors, gyroscopes, and/or inertial measurement units that contain some or all of these sensors). accelerometers may be used in monitoring when a finger contacts an input surface and may therefore be used to gather finger press input, etc.
Further, a future HMD may also include health sensors such as blood oxygen sensors, heart rate sensors, blood flow sensors, and/or other health sensors, radio-frequency sensors, depth sensors (e.g., structured light sensors and/or depth sensors based on stereo imaging devices that capture three-dimensional images), optical sensors such as self-mixing sensors and light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors that gather time-of-flight measurements, humidity sensors, moisture sensors, gaze tracking sensors, electromyography sensors to sense muscle activation, facial sensors, and/or other sensors."
Apple's hardware and sensor overviews cover what could be included in future Apple HMD over many generations of the device and not considered to be available on a single HMD out of the gate.
For more details, check out Apple's patent application here.
Jeremy Franklin: Product Design Manager
Phil Hobson: senior product design engineer
Ivan Marić: Product Design Engineer
Forrest Wang: Product Design Engineer (came to Apple from Tesla, infotainments and autopilot team)
Wey-Jiun Lin: Experienced Product Design Engineer (15-year product design lead, technology investigation – now on a "career break.").
Three other HMD Patents Published Thursday
Along with Apple's patent application 20210325678 covered above, the U.S. Patent Office also published an additional three patent applications relating to future HMDs as follows:
Patent application #20210325625 titled "Lens Mounting Structures for Head-Mounted Devices." Patent Abstract: "A head-mounted device may have optical modules that present images to the user's left and right eyes. The optical modules may move with respect to each other to accommodate different user interpupillary distances. Each optical module may have a lens barrel, a display coupled to the lens barrel that generates an image, and a lens mounted to the lens barrel through which the image is viewable from an eye box. The lens may be a multi-element lens formed from molded lens elements such as molded polymer lens elements. A lens element may be provided with protrusions that form lens tabs. The lens tabs may have coplanar lens tab surfaces that mate with corresponding coplanar mounting surfaces in the lens barrel. Alignment marks may be formed on the protrusions and/or other portions of the lens."
Patent application #20210325631 titled "Electronic Devices with Covering Structures." Patent Abstract: "Electronic devices such as head-mounted electronic devices may include displays for presenting images to users. To accommodate variations in the interpupillary distances associated with different users, a head-mounted device may have left-eye and right-eye optical modules that move with respect to each other. To hide internal structures from view, the rear of a head-mounted device may be provided with a cover. The cover may have a stretchable layer that is coupled to a frame. Openings in the stretchable layer may be aligned with the optical modules."
Patent application 20210325680 titled "Head-Mounted Electronic Device." Patent Abstract: "A head-mounted device may have a head-mounted housing. The housing may include a chassis with left and right openings that overlap respective left and right optical modules that present images eye boxes. Each optical module may have a lens and display that presents an image through the lens. The chassis may have an inner frame and outer frame. A middle portion of the chassis may form a stiffened nose bridge structure. Components in the housing such as a display, a fan housing, a heat sink layer, optical module guide rods, and a rear cover may span the width of the housing and may be attached to edge portions of the chassis, thereby forming a box-shaped structure that provides rigidity and helps prevent housing deformation."