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Do new augmented reality patents hint at Apple's answer to Google Glass?

Evan Dashevsky | March 21, 2013
Augmented reality hasn't really become a thing, but it will once our gadgets catch up. This is what makes Apples new patents so interesting.

You know what's awful? Reality. It's all filled with sequesters and drug-resistant super bugs. Good thing so many tech companies are working on replacing reality with an improved "augmented reality" that melds the actual and virtual.

Despite tech companies' best efforts, AR has failed to catch fire with the public. The reason is that it's not compatible with the current slate of hardware. The user is forced to awkwardly hold-up their phone or tablet, which is annoying, and it also opens their digital lives to all the lookie-loos in the general area. Not ideal.

However new toys such as Google Glass will tap into augmented reality's potential. Any manufacturers who plan on being players in a decade have already started preparing for an AR revolution that will be enabled by the coming generations of immersive consumer tech.

Apple, patent, virtual reality
The future. In official doodle form.

The patent pertains to non-specific iOS-powered touchscreen devices and has two main innovations: 1) allowing users to virtually leave information (notes, images, graphs) for other users and 2) a two-screen system that will present the real and virtual worlds side-by-side.Apple was recently awarded an augmented reality patent they originally applied for in 2010. You can read the all the boring technical deets here. Officially, the patent covers "Synchronized, interactive augmented reality displays for multifunction devices." Which basically means more social interactivity with the virtual world.

Of course, manufacturers often file for patents that never amount to anything. Often they are little more than reserve ammunition to be used in the escalating patent wars. In this case, these AR patents might be used against Google Glass or other headset makers should they present anything even remotely similar. But there's also the possibility that Apple may be planning to actually implement them in the near future.

ANDREW KELLY/REUTERS. Apple knows that soon everyone in the world will live in the Matrix like Sergey. 

For now, the spastic Apple rumor mill is busy grinding out whispers about tweaks regarding existing hardware lines or the still-unofficial Apple Watch (or iWatch, whatever). However, a product like Google Glass' smart headgear, or eventually display-capable contact lenses (which is a thing), will make AR the preferred information platform of the future.

Bottom line: while patents like these may very well may mean absolutely nothing, Apple and other manufacturers are most certainly laying the groundwork for new devices that will make our lives more virtual.


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