With iPhone sales dropping faster than ever it makes sense that one one of the most valuable tech companies in the world is looking to expand its product line once again. Apple is no stranger to turning itself around. Under Steve Jobs (for the second time) it went from a failing computer company to one that made blockbuster phones, music players and other refined consumer electronics.
Now it seems Apple is finally starting to make publicly visible moves in the mixed reality sphere, by filing a patent application on the 18th of July 2019.
Apple has made quite a few purchases that bolstered its technology war chest when it comes to AR and VR. In 2018 they bought Akonia Holographics, which specializes in the technology needed to make mixed reality work properly. We were also mightily impressed with Apple’s ARKit framework. A set of software technologies that turned existing, single-camera Apple mobile devices into some of the best consumer AR solutions on the market.
Taken together, these developments make the idea that Apple is working on some sort of HMD unsurprising. The patent application does however give us some insight as to what sort of capabilities such a device could have.
Referred to simply as “DISPLAY SYSTEM HAVING SENSORS”, the application abstract describes a device that collects quite a lot of information about the surrounding world. Including a video feed, depth information, color and lighting.
Moreover, the system doesn’t just look outwards at the world, but also has sensors painting back at the user. So that eye movement, gestures and facial expressions can be monitored.
Perhaps this points to Apple building a system with proper digital embodiment. Avatars that can precisely mimic boy movements and facial expressions. There may also be some affective computing applications. Really, the sky’s the limit.
Of course, Apple has filed plenty of patents for things that it has, to date, not turned into any sort of product. So while we know for sure from this and other patent applications that the company is looking at mixed reality technology, none of that guarantees we’re going to see an Apple HMD any time soon. Then again, perhaps the next iPhone might attach directly to your face. When it comes to Apple it’s never a good idea to bet against them doing something radical.