A week before Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his company's new name was Meta (short for Meta Platforms Inc.) to reflect the future Metaverse, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a future Metaverse application related to business meetings (or other kinds of meetings for school and so forth).
Apple's patent covers techniques for displaying a virtual object in an Enhanced Reality (ER) setting in accordance with an attenuating mode (e.g., physical muting mode) being active. With these techniques, a user can perform an action without that action being reproduced by a virtual object that is based on the user.
Apple's patent further covers various systems that allow persons to sense and/or interact with Enhanced Reality (ER) settings. For example, a head mounted system may include one or more speakers and an opaque display.
Various Head Mounted Systems
Apple's patent first describes several types of possible future Head Mounted Devices (HMDs). In one example, an external display (e.g., a smartphone) may be incorporated within a head mounted system. Apple has been working on this entry-level style of HMD for years. In fact, Apple was granted their 15th patent for this concept in August 2021.
According to Apple's October patent filing, the head mounted system may include microphones for capturing audio of a physical setting, and/or image sensors for capturing images/video of the physical setting. A transparent or semi-transparent display may also be included in the head mounted system. The semi-transparent or transparent display may, for example, include a substrate through which light (representative of images) is directed to a person's eyes. The display may also incorporate LEDs, OLEDs, liquid crystal on silicon, a laser scanning light source, a digital light projector, or any combination thereof. The substrate through which light is transmitted may be an optical reflector, holographic substrate, light waveguide, optical combiner, or any combination thereof. The transparent or semi-transparent display may, for example, transition selectively between a transparent/semi-transparent state and an opaque state.
As another example, the electronic system may be a projection-based system. In a projection-based system, retinal projection may be used to project images onto a person's retina. This too was covered in another October patent report titled "Apple has Won a Patent for a VR Headset and/or Smartglasses that work with a Direct Retinal Projector."
Virtual Meeting in HMD with Active or Inactive Physical Muting Mode
Yet the key to this patent is played out in a scenario of a user with an HMD attending a Virtual Meeting in the Metaverse. In such a meeting, Apple envisions allowing users to use their physical hand or arm movements to be mirrored in the virtual meeting, or not.
There are times when talking, that the user may want to show expressive gestures with their hands and arms and the user can turn on an "Absence Icon." When the user doesn't want to be expressive in any way, the user can turn on the 'Physical Muting Icon' on the HMD interface. These examples are presented below in patent FIGS. 2B and 2C.
Apple's patent FIG. FIG. 2B below illustrates an example of displaying a virtual object in accordance with a physical muting mode not being active.
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In contrast, Apple's patent FIG. 2B below illustrates an example of displaying a virtual object in accordance with a physical muting mode being active.
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Turning the Physical Muting Icon on or off could be done using gaze/eye-tracking or voice commands. In the HMD settings, the user will be able to determine what physical attributes are to be muted when this is activated. It could include eye movements, arm and body movements, a body pose and more.
Apple's patent FIG. 2G below illustrates an example of displaying a virtual object in accordance with an absence mode being active. As shown in FIG. 2G, for instance, upon leaving the meeting, physical user #206 can provide an indication of his temporary absence by enabling an absence mode. In some embodiments, physical user activates the absence mode prior to rising out of his chair.
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As another example, detecting activation of absence mode can include detecting a user's gaze being directed at a predetermined location (e.g., absence icon #216) for at least a threshold amount of time.
Once absence mode has been activated, the physical user can rise out of his chair without virtual avatar #200 reproducing any subsequent movements or poses of the physical user.
As shown in FIG. 2G, activating the absence mode causes display of a visual indication that the absence mode is active. In some embodiments, the visual indication includes stand-in avatar #226 and/or absence indicator #228 so as to inform other is in the meeting that a particular member has temporarily or permanently left the virtual meeting.
For more details, review Apple's patent application number 20210325974.
About two of the Inventors
Interestingly, Bruno Sommer, listed on the patent as one of the inventors, was a Software Engineering Manager, for AR/VR Apps. He had been with Apple 7 years and nine months. Just weeks ago, Sommer joined "Meta" (Facebook) as a Software Engineering Manager to work on their Metaverse. Another inventor listed on the patent is Connor Smith who is in Apple's Enterprise Support Group.