Apple Files Patent for Augmented-reality Windshield

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【Summary】The details of the patent suggest Apple wants to integrate some of its existing products with the AR windshield, such as FaceTime and the iPhone.

Michael Cheng    Sep 22, 2018 10:08 AM PT
Apple Files Patent for Augmented-reality Windshield

Disrupting the automotive industry requires out-of-the-box ideas. Apple, with plans to establish itself deeper in the space through in-car platforms and apps, was recently awarded a patent for an augmented-reality (AR) concept fit for cars of the future.

Read on to learn about the patent and its applications in autonomous vehicles, safety and entertainment.

Patent Details

The tech giant's patent, which was filed in Europe, is for an augmented-reality windshield. Like a heads-up display (HUD), the technology works by displaying images in the vehicle that passengers can interact with using hand gestures and natural movements.

The details of the patent suggest Apple wants to integrate some of its existing products with the AR windshield, such as FaceTime and the iPhone. As described by the author of the patent, the panel could facilitate video calls and other forms of communication while waiting to reach one's destination.

"The vehicle includes one or more transparent surfaces via which one or more occupants can perceive one or more portions of the environment from within the vehicle interior," explained the company in the patent.

"In some embodiments, the VNS can generate, manage, control, etc. one or more graphical displays, including one or more augmented reality displays, which are displayed on one or more particular transparent surfaces in the vehicle."

Due to frequent interactions with the AR projection, the cutting-edge windshield is mostly applicable to self-driving cars or limited to windows in passenger seats. However, the company does make references to human drivers, which imply that the modern windshield could be used to boost guidance and safety on the road.

One of the diagrams in the description of the patent shows a driver vaguely viewing the windshield (Figure 2A #210). According to Apple, the display is capable of following along routes and adjusting elements on the screen, based on its environment. To ensure the driver doesn't get distracted, the on-screen images are always centered with the road.

AR Windshield Applications

Other features include the display of real-time data about the vehicle. For instance, passengers could view speed and distance traveled without needing to look at the dashboard. Interestingly, should Apple move forward with manufacturing an AR windshield for autonomous cars, it could end up phasing out the traditional, clunky dashboard – in favor of graphical overlays.

"We're focusing on autonomous systems," said Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.

"It's probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on. Autonomy is something that's incredibly exciting for us and we'll see where it takes us."

A unique aspect of the AR windshield is its applications in occupant detection. The patent reveals capabilities related to monitoring stress, body posture, head motion, heart rate and more. Upon detecting high levels of stress (for example), the windshield could notify the passenger and display calming images or play soothing music.

With these features, the tech company could seamlessly integrate autonomous vehicles with its healthcare products. Apple already collects health-related data, from nutrition to activity, using the iPhone, Apple Watch and portable apps.

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