While it remains to be seen what Apple is doing in the VR space (if anything), the company has made its interest in AR clear over the past year. Today, a new patent from the company has been published, further supporting rumors it is getting increasingly involved with the tech.
The patent details “a method for representing a virtual object in a real environment”. To do this, the company has devised a system in which a “recording device”, possibly an iPhone, captures a 2D image of the environment in front of it. The system then takes one aspect of that environment as a reference point for a virtual object’s position in the real world. That allows any virtual project to collide with items in the real world “in a way largely close to reality.”
In the context of the patent Apple utilizes a fairly common use case for both virtual and augmented reality: furniture placement. Several images and figures in the document show a virtual image of a chair being projected into the room and being placed next to an identical set of real chairs and a desk. The virtual chair appears to become obscured when moved around to the back of the table from where the user is looking.
Apple’s patent claims this can provide an intuitive assessment “of the suitability of various products for a purpose of use” or, in simpler terms, help you decide what stuff to buy without needing the real product there and then.
So, in theory, with Apple’s AR method, you could have a game of Pokemon GO where Pikachu isn’t always oddly at the very front of the screen but might become concealed by a chair if he walks behind it.
It’s the latest in a string of patents from Apple that suggest the company is serious about AR. Last February we uncovered a filing for a ‘Wearable Information System’, and we’ve even seen one for a wireless VR headset using iPhone.
Sadly the patent doesn’t go into explicit detail about what type of device might power this method, though if Apple is going to get into AR soon then it is a safe bet that the first attempts will appear on iPhone.