Apple Patents Detail AR/VR System Suitable for Smartphones, Explore Object Recognition Challenges

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 Vision Pro
Tag: Patent
Buyer's Guide: Vision Pro (Buy Now)
Related Forum: Apple Vision Pro

Top Rated Comments

Abazigal Avatar
94 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
94 months ago
Why is the dude in the first graphic touching himself.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macTW Avatar
94 months ago
I'm excited for the future.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Provenance Emulator

PlayStation, GameCube, Wii, and SEGA Emulator for iPhone and Apple TV Coming to App Store

Friday April 19, 2024 8:29 am PDT by
The lead developer of the multi-emulator app Provenance has told iMore that his team is working towards releasing the app on the App Store, but he did not provide a timeframe. Provenance is a frontend for many existing emulators, and it would allow iPhone and Apple TV users to emulate games released for a wide variety of classic game consoles, including the original PlayStation, GameCube, Wii,...
iPhone 15 Pro FineWoven

Apple Reportedly Stops Production of FineWoven Accessories

Sunday April 21, 2024 6:03 am PDT by
Apple has stopped production of FineWoven accessories, according to the Apple leaker and prototype collector known as "Kosutami." In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Kosutami explained that Apple has stopped production of FineWoven accessories due to its poor durability. The company may move to another non-leather material for its premium accessories in the future. Kosutami has revealed...
Delta Feature

Delta Game Emulator Now Available From App Store on iPhone

Wednesday April 17, 2024 9:58 am PDT by
Game emulator apps have come and gone since Apple announced App Store support for them on April 5, but now popular game emulator Delta from developer Riley Testut is available for download. Testut is known as the developer behind GBA4iOS, an open-source emulator that was available for a brief time more than a decade ago. GBA4iOS led to Delta, an emulator that has been available outside of...
iPad Air 12

12.9-Inch iPad Air Now Rumored to Feature Mini-LED Display

Thursday April 18, 2024 7:37 am PDT by
The rumored 12.9-inch iPad Air that is expected to be announced in May will be equipped with a mini-LED display like the current 12.9-inch iPad Pro, according to Ross Young, CEO of research firm Display Supply Chain Consultants. The existing 10.9-inch iPad Air is equipped with a standard LCD panel, and the move to mini-LED technology for the 12.9-inch model would provide increased brightness for...