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Apple Patents Expression Tracking System for Mixed Reality Headset

Posted July 23, 2019 | Apple | Apple AR | Apple MR | Windows

Apple has been reportedly working on its own AR/MR headset for a while now. There still isn’t any concrete information as to when the company plans on revealing its AR/MR headset to the world, but recent reports suggested a potential 2020 release.

And that could turn out to be very accurate, especially according to a new patent. Variety reported on Tuesday about a new patent from Apple, first filled in March of this year, and published last week. The patent, titled “Display System Having Sensors“, outlines a system that will allow a head-mounted display to capture gestures and expressions of a user.

Apple has pretty much mastered facial expression tracking on the iPhone with the latest iPhones’ facial tracking sensors, but it’s obviously harder to implement that on a headset that’s mounted on the user’s actual face. You can’t use external cameras unless Apple used external camera units like some of the early VR headsets, and that’d obviously not be very Apple-like. And so, the new patent outlines a system that would allow the head-mounted display to use a range of sensors on the headset itself that gather user’s facial expression data like jaw tracking and eyebrow tracking which could be combined together for a full facial expression tracking system.

The same system could even be used for biometric authentication on the headset, according to the patent.

The patent also confirms recent rumors of how Apple’s mixed-reality headset will work. The patent talks about a system that uses cameras to capture the user’s real-world, layering virtual elements over the captured world, and then displaying the completed image to the user via actual displays. That actually sounds kind of smart, especially considering the fact that other augmented reality headsets like the Microsoft HoloLens do that very differently. The same system could give Apple’s headset the opportunity to produce a better quality image than we have seen on the HoloLens, and that will be a clear edge for Cupertino.

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