An Apple patent published yesterday by the USPTO and unearthed by Patently Apple is a reminder that Apple was actually working on wearable tech in the form of content-delivery glasses, at least on paper, long before Google debuted Google Glass. Apple originally filed a patent for its own Glass Project back in 2006, and this latest patent sketches out the details for a device that could someday go head-to-head with similar offerings from both Google and Microsoft.
In the new patent, Apple describes a “portable presentation device” which could be any device that a user wears that also provides them with access to visual or audio media content. It’s a fairly broad description, and I think that’s the intent: Apple has always had a habit of patenting ideas first, and worrying about bringing them to market later. That’s why the company is in such a strong position with regards to smartphone patents, despite actually being a relatively late entrant to the market vs. other cell phone makers.
The patent goes on to note that a portable presentation device could take the form of “a set of goggles that fit over the user’s eyes with display and perhaps sound producing capability, a faceplate that covers the front of the user’s face with display and perhaps sound producing capability, or any other headwear that has display and perhaps sound producing capability.” They could also contain sensors to detect a user’s presence, and in one version of the system described, the device is able to tell from how it’s being worn whether the user wants it to be active or not – so that lifting glasses with the tech built-in, for instance, would pause media playback.
So far, it sounds like Apple is essentially describing what could be an iOS-powered version of the virtual big screen home video goggles already available on the market, but the patent also describes ways in which they could activate communicate features, like making a phone call or connecting to a video conference. It also describes potential integration of live media services, streamed from Internet sources, as well as cable or satellite, yet another indication Apple is actively looking into the future of television.
Apple’s vision is still more focused on wearable media delivery, versus the AR-type features that Google is making the central feature of its Project Glass device, which is also where Microsoft seems to be headed according to its own recent patent filing. But all of these massive tech companies are clearly trying to plant their flags for the next stage of mobile tech, which begins to look increasingly like it’ll take the form of something we wear, not something we carry.