Apple was granted a pair of patents on Tuesday that depict a mobile augmented reality system that can detect objects in the surrounding environment and overlay them with virtual information.

Picked up by AppleInsider, the first patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is titled "Wearable information system having at least one camera" and describes an AR device with intelligent object recognition capabilities.

AR patent
Combining cameras, a screen, and a user interface, the device is described as being ideal for a head-mounted display, but the patent also suggests a use for the system in future smartphones, owing to the power efficient way in which it monitors the environment.

The device is described as having a default low-power scanning mode for normal operation, with high-power modes activated for short periods – when downloading and displaying AR content, for example. The rest of the patent gets quite technical as it details methods of optical tracking and determining camera orientation, two areas of AR that will prove particularly difficult to perfect.

Detecting, matching, and describing environmental features quickly and accurately are two challenges that Apple suggests could be overcome using a combination of dedicated hardware and pre-learned data. One aspect of such a system would use depth detection, achieved via dual-lens cameras similar to those found in the iPhone 7 Plus, which also utilizes depth mapping algorithms to produce Portrait Mode photos.

Apple AR patent
The second patent, titled "Method for representing virtual information in a real environment", details a way of labeling points in a topological real-world space while taking in environmental features such as object occlusion as the user moves around.

In one example, a user views an AR city map on a transparent display – or on a smartphone screen feeding a live image from a rear-facing camera – and pulls up information relating to nearby buildings or landmarks.

The patent goes on to suggest using geometry models, depth-sensing, positioning data and other advanced technologies to compensate for shortcomings in current visual modeling systems. The second patent also relies on a dual-camera system for creating a depth map of the immediate environment onto which the virtual data is superimposed.

The described technologies may or may not appear in future Apple products, but it's worth noting that both patents were originally filed for by German AR specialist Metaio just before Apple acquired the firm in 2015. Existing staff would have likely joined Apple's team dedicated to AR/VR research, to help explore how the technologies can be incorporated into future products.

Several times over the last year, Tim Cook has spoken of Apple's deep interest in augmented reality. "AR can be really great. We have been and continue to invest a lot in this. We're high on AR in the long run," he said in July.

Related Roundup: Apple Glasses
Tag: patent

Top Rated Comments

Abazigal Avatar
65 months ago
That's right, one more device to charge every night. :p
Well, my 6-port USB hub still has 2 ports available...
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gtg465x Avatar
65 months ago
Why is the dude in the first graphic touching himself.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macTW Avatar
65 months ago
I'm excited for the future.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Upcoming Products 2022 Feature

Gurman: Apple Preparing 'Widest Array of New Hardware Products in Its History' for Fall

Sunday January 23, 2022 10:32 am PST by
Apple is working on a number of new products that are set to launch this fall, and Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says that it will be "the widest array" of new devices that Apple has introduced in its history. In his latest "Power On" newsletter, Gurman explains that Apple is working on four new flagship iPhones (iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Max, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max), an updated low-end Ma...
macbook pro 14 16 2021

Three Months After Launch, Apple Still Struggling to Meet Demand for Redesigned 14-Inch and 16-Inch MacBook Pro

Monday January 24, 2022 7:12 am PST by
Three months after their launch, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros continue to experience high demand and seemingly short supply, with shipping dates for both models stretching into multiple weeks in several of Apple's key markets. In the United States, the baseline 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip is estimated to ship in three to four weeks, promising an arrival by at least...
General Dropbox Feature

macOS 12.3 Will Include Cloud Storage Changes Affecting Dropbox and OneDrive

Tuesday January 25, 2022 3:31 pm PST by
Dropbox today announced that users who update to macOS 12.3 once that software version becomes available may temporarily encounter issues with opening online-only files in some third-party apps on their Mac. In a support document and an email to customers, Dropbox said it is actively working on full support for online-only files on macOS 12.3 and will begin rolling out an updated version of...
Questionable Design Decisions

Apple's Most Questionable Design Decisions in Recent Memory

Sunday January 23, 2022 2:59 am PST by
Apple has always emphasized the depth of thought that goes into the design of its products. In the foreword to Designed by Apple in California, a photo book released by the company in 2016, Jony Ive explains how Apple strives "to define objects that appear effortless" and "so simple, coherent and inevitable that there could be no rational alternative." But every once in a while even Apple...
Apple Watch Red Yellow Green Feature 1

Apple Launches Black Unity Braided Solo Loop With 'Unity Lights' Watch Face

Wednesday January 26, 2022 6:05 am PST by
Apple today announced the Black Unity Braided Solo Loop for the Apple Watch, as well as a new downloadable watch face, to celebrate Black History Month. Following the launch of the limited edition Black Unity Apple Watch Series 6 and Sport Band in 2021, Apple today launched the Black Unity Braided Solo Loop as part of its celebrations for Black History Month this year.Apple is launching a...
att gigabit internet

AT&T Bringing $180/Month 5-Gigabit Internet to 70 Cities

Monday January 24, 2022 9:20 am PST by
AT&T today announced the launch of upgraded AT&T Fiber plans, which support speeds of up to 5 Gigabits for some customers. There are two separate plans, one "2 GIG" plan and one "5 GIG" plan, available to new and existing AT&T Fiber subscribers. According to AT&T, the new plans are available to nearly 5.2 million customers across 70 metro areas including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, San...
intel vs m1 max chip purple

Benchmarks Confirm Intel's Latest Core i9 Chip Outperforms Apple's M1 Max With Several Caveats

Wednesday January 26, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Benchmark results have started to surface for MSI's new GE76 Raider, one of the first laptops to be powered by Intel's new 12th-generation Core i9 processor. Intel previously said that its new high-end Core i9 processor is faster than Apple's M1 Max chip in the 16-inch MacBook Pro and, as noted by Macworld, early Geekbench 5 results do appear to confirm this claim, but there are several...
ios 15

Apple Releases iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3 With Fix for Safari Bug That Leaks Browsing Activity

Wednesday January 26, 2022 10:00 am PST by
Apple today released iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3, the third major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 15 operating systems that were released in September 2021. iOS and iPadOS 15.3 come almost two weeks after the release of iOS and iPadOS 15.2.1, minor bug fix updates. The iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in ...