Apple has been granted a patent (number 10,496,163) for “eye and head tracking,” which involves the rumored “Apple Glasses,” a head-mounted display (HMD) for augmented reality/virtual reality uses.
Depending on which rumor, you believe the device will arrive in 2020. Or 2021. Or 2020. It’s likely to be tethered to an iPhone. Other reports have claimed that the Apple Glasses could have a custom-build Apple chip and a dedicated operating system dubbed “rOS” for “reality operating system.”
In the patent data, Apple says three dimensional (3D) head tracking using a video sequence, or pose estimation using multiple images is an essential prerequisite for robust facial analysis and face recognition. Eye tracking often forms the basis of these operations and may be thought of as the process of electronically locating the point of a person’s gaze, or following and recording the movement of the person’s point of gaze.
In practice, eye tracking is provided by locating and tracking corneal reflections from an applied light source. However, because infrared or near-infrared light is not perceivable by the human eye, it is often used as the light source; infrared or near-infrared light passes through the pupil but is reflected by the iris, generating a differentiation between the pupil and the iris. Apple thinks it can go better than current implementations.
Here’s the summary of the invention: “Systems, methods, and computer readable media to detect and track a user’s eye gaze and head movement are described. In general, techniques are disclosed for identifying a user’s pupil location and using this information, in conjunction with a three dimensional (3D) model of the user’s head, perform gaze tracking operations.
“More particularly, techniques disclosed herein utilize pupil gradient information to refine an initial pupil location estimate. Once identified, the pupil’s location may be combined with 3D head pose information to generate an accurate and robust gaze detection mechanism.”
Apple files for, and is granted, lots of patents. Many of them never see the light of day as finished products.