Apple patent filing involves ‘augmented reality based on wireless ranging’

Thanks to Apple’s ARKit, we know that augmented reality (AR) is coming to the iPhone and iPad. And a new Apple patent (number 20170228935) for “augmented reality based on wireless ranging” hints at the company’s long range plans for AR.

According to the invention, a wireless communication device (think iPhone) may locate a proximate object in an environment, such as an electronic device or a resource. During this communication technique, the iOS device may receive a transmission that includes an identifier associated with the object. 

The iPhone may determine a range and/or a direction of the object from the wireless communication device. For example, the iOS device may determine the range and/or the direction, at least in part, using wireless ranging. Next, the device may present output information that indicates the range and/or the direction. In particular, the iPhone may display a map of a proximate area with an indicator representative of the object shown on the map. Alternatively, the iOS device may display an image of the proximate area with the indicator representative of the object on the image.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that there are limitations associated with existing user interfaces on mobile devices. For example, many interfaces —  especially those in small, handheld electronic devices — are constrained by their size. In addition, it can be difficult to present information on a user interface in a way that allows different types of information to be intuitively distinguished from each other. 

Apple says, that consequently, the amount of information that can be displayed on a user interface is often restricted, and users are often confused by the information that is displayed. In addition to frustrating the users and degrading the user experience, there is often a significant opportunity cost associated with information that is overlooked or that isn’t displayed. Apple thinks that AR features are one way to overcome such limitations.

At this summer’s Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple introduced ARKit. It allows developers to tap into the latest computer vision technologies to build detailed virtual content on top of real-world scenes for interactive gaming, immersive shopping experiences, industrial design and more.

Of course, 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.