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Apple’s patented AR glasses could unlock multiple devices, among other hi-tech features

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published Jan 22, 2021 9:29 am

Next to a self-driving vehicle, Apple’s next big product could be an augmented reality (AR) eyewear.

The global tech giant has filed a patent for a new technology “worn by a user as a head-mounted device” that can unlock all your Apple devices the same way you can unlock your MacBook with your Apple Watch.

A recent report by Hypebeast stated that this new technology, dubbed as “Apple Glasses," can unlock devices when it connects to them within a specific distance. Apple hasn’t disclosed the exact range yet.

The Apple Glasses will need “special orientation,” such as turning to face the device or voice command, to enable its unlocking feature. It’s a solution that promotes seamless user experience across devices by reducing the amount of unlocking a user is required.

Apple’s plan to develop an AR eyewear has been on the rumor mill for the last couple of years. In 2017, TechCrunch reported that Apple acquired Vrvana, a headset company with a device that gives users pass-through AR experiences on a conventional opaque display. In 2018, Apple acquired Akonia Holographics which, according to Reuters, is another startup focused on making lenses for AR glasses.

Apart from that, Apple has been filing a number of patents related to an “optical head-mounted display (HMD) device” in the past years. It’s pretty much a giveaway of what we can expect from the Apple Glasses.

Apple Glass prototype. Photo: Tech Vision

What else could the Apple Glasses do?

Detachable arms

Apart from its ability to unlock multiple devices, the Apple Glasses are suspected to have detachable arms.

The company’s application for a “Modular system for head-mounted device” at the US Patent and Trademark Office in April 2019 pertains to a feature that enables users to swap out the arms of the glasses for various purposes.

Apple suggests that they might provide a set of arms that offer lesser functionality, but "long battery life when outside the home.” The user could also swap in frames that give "high-resolution display at home" but could use up much of the battery, according to AppleInsider.

The AR device's detachable arms as illustrated on Apple's patent.
Hand gesture recognition

Adding to Apple Glasses’ list of possible—not to mention impressive—features is hand gesture recognition.

“In some implementations, hand gestures are used to initiate or terminate the functionality at the HMD of display of virtual content at the user's hand. For example, rotation of a closed fist clockwise or counterclockwise turns on or off display of virtual content at the user's hand at the HMD,” Apple wrote in the patent filed May 22, 2020.

Adjustable lens system

Another feature that keeps iOS users hyped up for the Apple Glasses is its hi-tech lens that can make adjustments based on its surrounding light.

The technology was filed under the patent “Display System With Localized Optical Adjustments” in December 2020. It states that based on the patented technology,  the lens can actively adapt to the ambient light by adjusting the brightness of the real scene imaging.

Apple also gave an example of the usage of this technology: "If, as an example, a head-mounted display system is being used to display computer-generated content that overlaps real-world objects, the brightness of the real-world objects can be selectively decreased to enhance the visibility of the computer-generated content. In particular, a spatially addressable adjustable light modulator may be used to generate a dark region that overlaps a bright real-world object that is overlapped by computer-generated content in the upper right corner of a user’s field of view."

Just like the Apple Watch, the Apple Glasses would need to connect to an iPhone. Photo: Martin Hajek/iDropnews

Reality operating system

Bloomberg has said the Apple glasses will run "rOS" or reality operating system, which is based on iOS. After users connect the glasses to an iPhone, it can display text messages and other content on the lens in real-time. 

Release date

While the official release date is yet to be revealed, Digitimes reported that Apple has entered the second phase of its glasses development earlier this year. Others suggested that it will be out in the market by late 2021 or 2022.

Banner photo from Martin Hajek/iDropnews.