Today the US Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to a possible future mixed reality headset with three internal displays. What’s new is that Apple is considering adding two lower resolution “peripheral displays” residing on both the right and left side of the central display area to provide a more natural immersive experience viewing content like a game. This is something lacking in other headsets on the market today. A second patent granted this week hints at how AR/VR hand controllers could adopt a combination of buttons and the clickpad now on the Apple TV 4K remote.
In Apple’s patent background they note that challenges can arise in presenting virtual reality content to a user. If care is not taken, the display structures that are used in presenting the content will not cover the user’s peripheral vision, which will detract from the immersive nature of the user’s virtual reality experience.
Apple’s granted patent covers a head-mounted device that provides a display. The head-mounted device may be used in displaying virtual reality content for a user. To enhance user immersion in the content that is being presented, the display may have a peripheral portion that covers the user’s peripheral vision.
The peripheral display portion may use individual light-emitting diodes or other pixels that have a lower density and that display content at a lower resolution than the central portion of the display. Because the user’s visual acuity is reduced in the periphery of the user’s visual field, the reduction in the resolution of the peripheral display portion relative to the central portion will not be noticeable to the user.
The presence of content in the peripheral display will help cover all portions of a user’s vision and will therefore enhance the immersive effect of the head-mounted device when the head-mounted device is being used to present virtual reality content to the user.
Further, the headset may contain a gaze tracking system that monitors a user’s eyes in the eye boxes to gather information on the gaze direction of the user’s eyes. During operation, control circuitry in the electronic device may use the gaze direction information to adjust peripheral content on the peripheral portion to correct for parallax-induced mismatch between the peripheral content and central content on the central portion of the display. The control circuitry may also depower peripheral pixels that are determined to be unviewable based on the gaze direction information.
Diffuser structures may be used to help hide the boundary between the central and peripheral display portions. The diffuser structures may be formed from lens holder structures that support the lenses or a separate diffuser layer. A neutral density filter may be used to reduce pixel brightness in the peripheral display portion. Pulse width modulation schemes may also be used to regulate pixel intensity.
Apple’s patent FIG. 10 below is a front view of an illustrative display showing regions with content that may be expanded over peripheral display portions to hide interfaces between central and peripheral display portions; FIG. 11 is a top view of an illustrative display showing how pixels in the display may be selectively depowered or otherwise adjusted based on gaze direction.
Apple’s patent FIG. 14 above shows how central display #14C and/or peripheral display #14P may be formed from rigid display panels (eg, planar panels). Display #14C may be, for example, a flexible display or a rigid display formed from a rigid substrate. Display 14P may be, for example, a printed circuit board (eg, a rigid printed circuit board formed from a rigid printed circuit board material such as fiberglass-filled epoxy) on which individual light-emitting diodes for pixels #24P have been mounted.
Apple’s patent FIG. 15 above shows how pixels #24P in peripheral portion #14P may be mounted on a molded polymer support structure or other support structure with a curved inner surface profile (support structure #86).
For more details, review Apple’s granted patent 11,450,297
David Lum: Senior System Architect (A 19-year veteran)
Shubham Gandhi: Hardware Engineer, Displays
Tyler Milham: Mechanical Design Engineer
Profiles for Apple engineers William Sprague and Pretesh Mascarenhas were not found.
Continuous Touch Input Over Multiple Independent Surfaces
Apple was also granted a patent on Tuesday that primarily covers the new Apple TV remote sold with their 4K box. So technically it’s a patent fulfilled.’
However, buried in the patent is a tiny patent point that states, like most patents, that the invention isn’t restricted to an Apple TV remote. Apple states in patent point #0031: “FIGS. 1A-1C illustrate various examples of controller devices (#100, #102 and #104) for providing remote control to another electronic device such as, for example, a separate computing device, a display screen (eg, television or computer monitor) or a device connected to a display screen (eg, a digital video disc (DVD) player, a BLU-RAY(R) playeran augmented reality (AR) device, a virtual reality (VR) devicean internet-connected streaming device (eg, an APPLE TV(R), notebook computer, or desktop computer), a gaming console, similar devices, and combinations thereof).
While at present it’s a hint from Apple’s engineering team and nothing more, it’s an interesting and timely hint that wasn’t part of previous Apple TV remote patents. For more on this, review granted patent 20220291778
Many Apple fans are already familiar with the clickpad that was part of the original iPods and now a part of the 4K remote. So, it would be somewhat of a natural methodology to adopt.
Apple could easily set action buttons along with their clickpad for gaming handset controllers for their future Mixed Reality Headset, should that be the direction Apple decides to take. In the bigger picture, Apple patents have shown us that their engineering teams are working on various possible accessories for their headset including rings, finger devices and sensor filled VR gloves. Only time will tell which accessories Apple will introduce at launch time.