A recent rumor claimed Apple was possible canning its “Apple Glasses” project to create a head-mounted display for augmented reality/virtual reality purposes. I’m 99.9% sure this won’t happen. In fact, the tech giant has been granted a patent (number 10,354,136) for a “head mounted tracking device and method for providing drift free eye tracking through a lens system.”
As noted by Apple, there are head mounted eye tracking devices made of h a frame that can be mounted to the head of a user and lenses inserted into the frame through which the user can look. Usually eye tracking devices comprise cameras which capture images of the eyes of a user and therefrom determine the gaze direction.
These cameras can be placed in the frame and have a direct path to the user's eye. Such configurations have the disadvantage that cameras only have a side view onto the eye, at least for certain gaze directions, and eye features are more difficult to capture. This reduces the tracking accuracy. What’s more, per Apple, these cameras can be seen by the user and might be disturbing or occluding parts of the visual field.
Also there are known head mounted displays with integrated eye tracking devices. Head mounted displays usually comprise a display, which is mounted to the head of a user by means of a frame, for example. Images shown on the displays can be projected onto the eyes of a user by means of lenses or lens systems. Then there are head mounted displays in which the camera is hidden from the user and is observing the user's eye through a lens system.
These devices use appearance based, interpolating eye tracking approaches, which have the big drawback that the calibration of these eye tracking devices is invalidated when the relative position of the device with respect to the user's eye is changed, for example if the head mounted eye tracking device slips slightly. Apple says this results in a loss of accuracy after movement. The tech giant’s goal with its invention to provide a head mounted eye tracking device and a method for determining at least one first feature of at least one eye of a user by means of a head mounted eye tracking device, which provides more flexibility in positioning components of the head mounted eye tracking device and at the same time avoids detrimental impact on the tracking accuracy.
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.