• Apple is serious in its plans for virtual and augmented reality
  • The company has filed a patent application for new VR/AR technologies
  • The patent talks about a headset capable of projecting simulated images into the user's eyes

Apple has plans to create a virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headset that makes use of advanced mini-projectors to present virtual and augmented environments to users, a new patent application shows. Unlike other headsets, however, the images will not be displayed on a screen – they'll be projected directly toward the users' eyes.

Traditional VR and AR headsets use displays or screens to show VR/AR content to users. These headsets use a variety of technologies to display immersive scenes that give users the feeling of being present in the virtual environment.

A new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on advanced technologies that will allow consumers to enjoy fully immersive virtual and augmented reality environments, without having to deal with the problems normally associated with the use of VR/AR devices.

What problems?

The patent inventor, Alexander Shpunt, noted that while traditional VR/AR headsets are capable of immersing users into simulated environments, the technologies these devices use to do that can sometimes result in what is known as “accommodation-convergence” problems.

This problem happens when the depth of the images or simulated environments produced by the VR/AR headsets do not match the stereo convergence of the users' two eyes.

In other words, the users' eyes cannot focus accurately on the elements shown on the screen. This can result in eyestrain, headaches and nausea and will negatively affect the users' VR/AR experience, the patent noted.

Proposed solution

The patent inventor noted that in order to prevent such problems from occurring and to let users enjoy the virtual environments and scenes that may be presented to them, the proposed VR/AR headset should feature technologies that are capable of scanning images directly onto the users' retinas.

This headset, the inventor said, will make use of a direct retinal projector system to project images, pixel by pixel, onto the users' eyes. This system will allow the headset to show objects and other elements at the correct depth or distance, avoiding the accommodation-convergence problem.

The use of this technology will help users see things in a simulated environment more accurately. The users' eyes will not have to struggle with focusing on objects, whether near or far, since the device will be the one to directly present it to their retinas.

The technology described in the patent application might sound exciting, but fans should note that the Apple patent has not yet been granted.

Apple HMD Retina
Apple is working on a VR/AR headset capable of projecting images directly into the user's eyes. Apple/USPTO