Apple patent involves Mac keyboards that could use augmented reality

Apple has been granted a patent (number 10,237,509) that involves Mac keyboards that could utilize augmented displays in conjunction with a head-mounted display (the rumored “Apple Glasses” that are expected to debut next year).

In the patent filing, Apple says that computers with displays can present simulated environments to users. Head-mounted displays are available that enhance the immersive nature of simulated environments. A user with a head-mounted display may be presented with virtual reality worlds. A user may manipulate virtual objects in the virtual worlds by supplying input through data gloves or other input devices. 

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However, Apple adds that, although a wide variety of virtual input devices can be constructed for a user in a simulated environment, tasks such as supplying text input can be cumbersome in simulated environments. For example, a user in a simulated environment may not be provided with physical feedback of the type that naturally arises when interacting with a physical keyboard. Apple apparently thinks that a combination of a keyboard, AR, and a head-mounted display is the answer.

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “A system may be provided in which input is gathered from a user with input-output devices. The input-output devices may include physical keyboards, touch screen displays, data gloves, and other input-output devices. Control circuitry in the system may use a head-mounted display, a display on a keyboard, and a display in a tablet computer or other electronic device to display images. 

“Virtual reality content may be presented to a user with the head-mounted display. The virtual reality content may include virtual documents with virtual text, virtual keyboards with virtual keys, and other virtual objects. A virtual keyboard may be overlaid on top of a physical keyboard or on top of a keyboard display or touch screen display in a tablet computer or other electronic device. Virtual key labels may be updated in response to user key press input and other input.”

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.