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Apple Glass patent reveals modular design approach

Apple Glass could feature a modular design approach. (Image: Apple/USPTO)
Apple Glass could feature a modular design approach. (Image: Apple/USPTO)
Apple Glass looks like it could be many different things if a series of Apple patents points to what is in store. Rather than focusing entirely on an augmented reality experience, Apple Glass could offer different functionality according to the task at hand thanks to modular componentry.

It has been long rumored that Apple is developing its own augmented reality glasses technology said to be dubbed Apple Glass. Apple seemed to be missing in action when the AR and VR hype machine was in full swing a couple of years ago, but since then a lot of dust has settled and the technology looks to be still very much a niche for the most enthusiastic. The company often gets criticized for not being first but for ‘reinventing’ technology so that it is both accessible and offers more widespread appeal.

In this case, being a follower than leader may prove to yet be another masterstroke. A new series of patents suggest that should Apple indeed ship a device featuring augmented reality technology, it may not be limited by offering a single experience. Rather, Apple’s patent applications suggest that the Apple Glass may have modular components that can be switched in and out depending on what a user means to do with them.

Apple’s US Patent Application No. 20200201042 explains a headset that allows users to swap out the arms and that the glasses frames themselves could also be interchangeable:

Head-mounted devices, such as head-mounted displays, headsets, visors, smartglasses, head-up display, etc., can perform a range of functions that is determined by the components (e.g., sensors, circuitry, and other hardware) included with the wearable device as manufactured. However, space, cost, and other considerations may limit the ability to provide every component that might provide a desired function.

For example, different users may have different preferences regarding the components and functions that are provided by a given head-mounted device. Some users may desire certain capabilities, such as high resolution display and long battery life, while other users may desire other capabilities, such as smaller form factor.

Whatever Apple is cooking up, it seems increasingly likely that we will see a shipping product emerge within the next 12 to 36 months, depending on which tipster you are to believe. If it does adopt a modular approach, it has a couple of benefits for Apple. Firstly, selling an upgradeable base product means a more affordable entry price can be targeted. Secondly, it will also help the company determine what will stick from a market perspective. Thirdly, if it is upgradeable, selling accessories and modular components means more upselling opportunities.

(Image: Apple/USPTO)
(Image: Apple/USPTO)


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Sanjiv Sathiah, 2020-06-27 (Update: 2020-06-27)