Apple has filed for a patent (number 20210041948) for an “eye tracking system” (one of several such filing) that involves “Apple Glasses,” the rumored augmented reality/virtual reality/mixed reality head-mounted display (HMD).
The patent involves an eye tracking system for detecting position and movements of a user’s eyes in a HMD. The system includes at least one eye tracking camera, an illumination source that emits infrared light towards the user’s eyes, and diffraction gratings located at the eyepieces.
The diffraction gratings redirect or reflect at least a portion of infrared light reflected off the user’s eyes, while allowing visible light to pass. The cameras capture images of the user’s eyes from the infrared light that is redirected or reflected by the diffraction gratings.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that VR systems allow users to experience and/or interact with an immersive artificial environment, so that the user feels as if they were physically in that environment. For example, virtual reality systems may display stereoscopic scenes to users in order to create an illusion of depth, and a computer may adjust the scene content in real-time to provide the illusion of the user moving within the scene.
When the user views images through a virtual reality system, the user may thus feel as if they are moving within the scenes from a first-person point of view. Similarly, MX combines computer generated information (referred to as virtual content) with real world images or a real world view to augment, or add content to, a user’s view of the world. Apple says the simulated environments of VR and/or the mixed environments of MR may be used to provide an interactive user experience for multiple applications, such as applications that add virtual content to a real-time view of the viewer’s environment, interacting with virtual training environments, gaming, remotely controlling drones or other mechanical systems, viewing digital media content, interacting with the Internet, or the like.
Apple thinks such a system would be more effective if it involves an eye tracker for estimating eye positions and eye movement. Eye tracking systems have been used in research on the visual system, in psychology, psycholinguistics, marketing, and as input devices for human-computer interaction. In the latter application, typically the intersection of a person’s point of gaze with a desktop monitor is considered.
When it comes to Apple Glasses, such a device will arrive this year or 2022, depending on which rumor you believe. The Sellers Research Group (that’s me) thinks Apple will at least preview it before the end of the year.
It will be a head-mounted display. Or may have a design like “normal” glasses. Or it may be eventually be available in both. The Apple Glasses may or may not have to be tethered to an iPhone to work. Other rumors say that Apple Glasses could have a custom-build Apple chip and a dedicated operating system dubbed “rOS” for “reality operating system.”