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Apple patent reveals augmented reality for iPad

Two filings show what Apple has in mind for augmented reality implementation in future iOS devices

A special augmented reality app could be coming for future iPad owners if Apple decides to bring this patent design to the real world.

The folks at AppleInsider have unearthed a recent Apple patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office explaining some methods and technologies the company could be implementing on iPads. The aim of the Apple copyright is to provide a possible cost-effective augmented reality platform to iOS-enabled devices.

One method the patent proposes would split the screen in half, where one portion could be a live video feed while the other is a CGI representation of the video feed but with real-time object recognition and information. The illustration below is an example where the bottom half of the iPad screen is presenting location information based on what the live feed is displaying. The user can then manipulate the bottom portion for navigation or even sharing purposes with other iPads.

In order to get the most accurate readings and updates in real-time, a fair amount of built-in sensors in the iOS device must be active. Displacement-sensitive instruments such as gyroscopes, magnetometers, GPS and WiFi will all be utilized in tandem to render the 3D representation of the constantly moving user.

The second method for augmented reality is actually part of another filing, but is related nonetheless. This specific method is a bit more ambitious and involves the use of transparent screens. The screen, either just a portion of it or its entire surface, would be transparent, allowing the user to see real-world objects through the screen while information overlay is displayed on top. As such, the filing is appropriately named “Transparent Electric Device”.

For more information on the patents, check out the source filings. Hopefully Apple will follow through with the development and bring us something truly unique in future iOS tablets and smartphones.


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Allen Ngo, 2011-07- 8 (Update: 2012-05-26)