What You Need to Know About Apple's New Augmented Reality Device

Apple Logo on Building

A vast majority of tech companies these days are getting into Virtual Reality, or VR. We’re talking about big names like Google, HTC, Sony, GoPro, Qualcomm and many others.

Unsurprisingly, it looks like Apple is about to join the fray. They were recently granted patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a “wearable information system” that uses VR technology.

What Do We Know About Apple’s VR Project?

Going by what we can learn from the awarded patents, as opposed to rumors, it looks like Apple will be developing some kind of mobile augmented reality system.

Just to clarify the difference, virtual reality is more immersive. It usually involves wearing a headset or headpiece that plunges you into a fantasy world — usually of the digital variety. AR, or augmented reality, is a unique type of VR tech that overlays digital content onto the real world.

A great example of AR in popular channels is the “Pokémon Go” game. When you’re catching Pokémon, it shows the creatures onscreen, as if they were in the real world. Of course, they’re just digital and you need the app to see and interact with them, but that’s exactly what AR is.

More specifically, Apple’s VR — or AR — project will be a small, wearable device that detects objects around you and displays relevant information near them, almost like a holographic “heads-up” display.

It remains to be seen how and if this will catch on with consumers. It’s no secret that Apple has struggled with early adoption issues in the recent past, particularly thanks to the Apple Watch and its successor.

It does sound a little far-fetched at a glance, but this technology has been around for a while, believe it or not. You can even see the filed patents yourself, called “Wearable information system having at least one camera.” The second patent is titled, “Method for representing virtual information in a real environment,” and it details how the data will be displayed in the real world.

These patents were first discovered by Apple Insider.

What Does This Mean?

Robert Scoble recently “confirmed” on Twitter that Apple and Carl Zeiss — a renowned optics company — have paired up to create a set of AR glasses. Most likely, this rumored device is what Apple will be applying the aforementioned patents to.

In layman’s terms, the first patent details a device that can enhance computer vision capabilities, both in the real and the digital worlds. The second patent details the method that will be used — or, rather, the technology — to overlay digital information in the environment.

They were filed by a German Augmented Reality specialist named Metaio, who worked for a firm that has since been acquired by Apple. The patents also confirm Apple took control of the IP in November 2016.

There is a lot of complicated information, and visual diagrams, in both patents. Ultimately, Apple is creating a wearable that will be able to scan the environment and overlay relevant information, similar to what Google Glass was capable of. The biggest difference is that Apple’s device will come in several forms. One diagram even shows a user wearing an AR device around his neck, similar to a badge or lanyard.

It’s possible this new AR platform will require you to own one of Apple’s existing products like, say, the iPhone 7 Plus. Only time will tell as far as that’s concerned.

But one thing is definitely certain: Apple is looking to change the mobile field, particularly when it comes to virtual reality. Some believe that if Apple can pull this off, the product will be one of the most innovative things they have ever done.

What do you think?

Image by Yuanbin Du