Tim Cook has not-so-subtly hinted that Apple is working on some sort of augmented reality product. And while ARKit may be the start, a patent application published today hints at what Apple could be picturing down the road.
The application describes how a device could overlay information on the real world. Apple is imagining some pretty broad possibilities here. It could be as simple as putting an indicator on a point of interest, like a building. But it could be as complicated as identifying every element of a car’s dashboard and overlaying videos about them.
Apple primarily describes these abilities in relation to a phone: you’d hold it in front of you, the camera would capture the world, and the screen would overlay the context. But Apple goes a bit further than that near the end, saying it could also be applied to a “semi-transparent spectacle or glasses.” In that case, your eyes would see the world, and the glasses would overlay digital information on top of what you’re seeing.
Of course, this all sounds great in theory and looks cool in mock-ups, but technology like that still remains a long ways off. It’s all very reminiscent of what Google was originally envisioning Glass would be able to do — but the end result was far, far from it.
The patent was first spotted by Patently Apple, which points out that the ideas described in this patent originated from Metaio, an augmented reality startup that Apple purchased two years ago. Apple Insider also notes that this new patent application largely builds upon another patent granted to Metaio earlier this year — and originally filed in 2013. Apple is clearly interested in and working on this kind of stuff, but the timeline suggests that what’s described here isn’t necessarily just around the corner.