Apple’s wearable display patent involves, among other things, a shirt with a display

Apple is keeping whatever augmented reality (AR) plans it has secret (no surprise), but the company has been granted a patent (number 9,478,583) for a “wearable display having an array of LEDs on a conformable silicon substrate.”

You would think that such technology would involve AR glasses. And it might. However, the images accompanying the patent filing also show a shirt with a flexible display (pictured). Hmmm.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that flexible display technology can potentially be used in a variety of electronic devices such as rollable displays, irregularly shaped displays, and wearable displays. Currently, the flexibility of the electronic device is at least partially limited by the substrate on which the display is formed, but several flexible displays have been developed using thin glass or plastic as a flexible substrate onto which low-temperature polycrystalline silicon thin-film transistors (TFTs) are formed. 

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “Embodiments of a conformable electronic device may include a silicon substrate having a thickness of 50 .mu.m or less. An array of LEDs that are electrically coupled to a controller chip may be formed on a surface of the silicon substrate. In an embodiment, a top passivation layer is formed over the array of LEDs, the one or more controller chips, and the top surface of the silicon substrate. An embodiment also includes a bottom passivation layer formed on a bottom surface of the silicon substrate.”

In September Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed augmented reality/virtual reality technologiesduring an ABC News interview. He said that, in his opinion, augmented reality (AR) is the larger of the two, “probably by far, because this gives the capability for both of us to sit and be very present talking to each other, but also have other things visually for both of us to see.”

Apple has filed for several patents involving VR and AR. One patent involves augmented reality (AR) apps for iOS devices such as an iPhone and iPad — and which would seem handy if Apple ever made a version of Google Glasses. Another is for a a glasses-free, interactive device that can display holograms in 3D. A 3D Mac, perhaps?

Another patent filing indicates that Apple has considered a 3D imaging and display system that would work with Macsand iOS devices, and which would scan and display simultaneously. Yet another patent filing describes a device for “projecting a source image in a head-mounted display apparatus for a user” to deliver “an enhanced viewing experience.

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.