Might We Soon See Apple Augmented Reality?

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Where Might Apple Fit into this New World of Augmented Reality Devices?

Will we see Apple Augmented Reality Displays sometime soon? Apple was granted a patent this month that describes display devices running applications that show off Augmented Reality. After the success that Nintendo and Niantic have been having with Pokémon, a run-away hit, it would seem like good timing to come out with such a thing. Niantic attempted success with another augmented reality game by the name of Ingress. But, with the success of Pokemon, it feels like Augmented Reality has become a mainstream technology.

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Ingress hasn’t had the spectacular growth that Pokemon has, but some people are suggesting that it might have a future as a location based team building game. We might see Pokemon grow to similar levels of success. We also see augmented reality elsewhere – Google has been experimenting with Google Glass for over a year as an augmented reality headset and has also come out with the Virtual Reality Google Cardboard. Google is also supposedly working on a device that could combine augmented reality with virtual reality known as Google Daydream, and which is supposed to be released in Fall of this year. Google has also supported a startup through Google Ventures known as Magic Leap, which appears to be working upon virtual reality and augmented reality as well. Magic Leap appears to have partnered with Lucas Film.

Microsoft has also released their augmented reality headset Hololens. The possibilities of such technology are interesting.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are different from each other. Virtual reality is seeing a world that could be. Augmented reality presents an overlay upon the world that we see. Magic Leap claims to combine the two, as mixed reality, as described in this video:

How does what Apple has presented fit into this ecosystem?

We know that Apple is profiting from the Pokemon Go Game in the Apple store. Will that be enough motivation for them to develop games of their own? The patent provides a lot of information about augmented reality, and how they see augmented reality devices working. It discusses the different types of information that might be used in an augmented reality system. How involved in augmented reality will Apple become?

The patent that describes what they offer is:

Synchronized Interactive Augmented Reality Displays for Multifunction Devices
Inventors: Brett C Bilbrey, Nicholas V. King and Aleksandar Pance
US Patent Application 20160203648
Published July 14, 2016
Filed: March 25, 2016


A device can receive a live video of a real-world, physical environment on a touch-sensitive surface. One or more objects can be identified in the live video. An information layer can be generated related to the Objects. In some implementations, the information layer can include annotations made by a user through the touch-sensitive surface. The information layer and live video can be combined in a display of the device. Data can be received from one or more onboard sensors indicating that the device is in motion. The sensor data can be used to synchronize the live video and the information layer as the perspective of video camera view changes due to the motion. The live video and information layer can be shared with other devices over a communication link.

Apple provides us with this definition:

Augmented reality (AR) technology combines a live view of a real-world, physical environment with computer-generated imagery.

That imagery might include text, images, and references to other information, such as links.

The patent provides examples of information that might be mixed with those live view images, and could include:

  • Specifications,
  • Directions,
  • Recipes,
  • Data sheets,
  • Images,
  • Video clips,
  • Audio files,
  • Schemas,
  • User interface elements,
  • Thumbnails,
  • Text,
  • References or links,
  • Telephone numbers,
  • Blog or journal entries,
  • Notes,
  • Part numbers,
  • Dictionary definitions,
  • Catalog data,
  • Serial numbers,
  • Order forms,
  • Marketing or advertising and
  • Any other information that may be useful to a user.

It’s sounding like they are open to many more possibilities than just games about pokemon, though that seems like it’s working out pretty well. The patent does go beyond augmented reality used for playing games.

There’s a mention in the patent of a “Magnifying glass tool” that could be used to “magnify or zoom an object in live video.”

The patent also describes showing a video of a circuit board and allowing a person to zoom in and view annotations on that circuit board.

Other Examples

1. A teacher can hold a device over a student’s exam paper, and an outline of incorrect answers could be displayed to “assist the teach(er) in grading the exam paper.”

2. A mechanic could hold a device over a car engine, and a manual could show information about the engine, which the mechanic can use to repair the engine.

3. A Doctor could hold a device over a patient, and receive information about medical history or drug prescriptions to help the doctor make a diagnosis of the patent. The patent mentions that an x-ray or MRI video could be displayed with the live video as well.


This patent does take the idea of augmented reality very seriously and hints at uses that are more commercial than entertainment. If Apple could make a few billion dollars selling coins for Pokemon in the Apple Store, they could afford research on other ways that people can use augmented reality. They do hint at Marketing and Advertising is an information source for uses of Augmented Reality, and it will be interesting seeing if they come up with something focused upon that.

I guess we will wait and see what they come out with, but the augmented reality displays described in this patent will be a possible competitor to what Google ends up releasing, and what Microsoft may show us with their Hololens. That could be eye-opening.

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