Take That, Google: Apple Gets Patent for Wearable Device

It seems like Google will have to compete with Apple in the race to develop a wearable computer.

Google’s been boasting its Google Glass prototype on every possible occasion, but it may face serious competition in the head-up-display business. Photo: Trey Ratcliff/Flickr

Apple on Tuesday was granted a U.S. patent for a head-mounted display device that projects an image in front of a user’s eyes, creating an “enhanced viewing experience.”

According to the patent given to Apple by the U.S. Patent, the device could focus on “augmented reality” by using a see-through image imposed upon a real-world view.

Mashable writes that In the filing, the Cupertino-based company defines a head-mounted display as “a display device that a person wears on the head in order to have video information displayed in front of the eyes.”

“A HMD has two small CRT, LCD or OLED displays with magnifying lenses or other associated optical elements. The display(s) and optics are typically embedded in a helmet, glasses or a visor, which a user can wear.”

The new Apple patent seems too similar to well-known Google’s computerized glasses technology, dubbed Google Glass.

Last week saw Google’s annual developer conference, where Sergey Brin, a company co-founder, demonstrated a prototype of the glasses designed to have a processor, memory, GPS sensor, cameras, microphone and speaker.

“This is new technology and we really want you to shape it,” Brin said at the conference. “We want to get it out into the hands of passionate people as soon as possible.”

Experts predict that Google Glass would accelerate the development of wearable computers and that in further few years it will likely be common for people walking down the street to be wearing some form of computer.

Meanwhile Brin suggests that users should look such science fiction tales such as Star Trek to find the next generation of computers. He said that in reality many future computers won’t look at all like today’s devices.

According to Computerword, “with Apple putting its might behind developing wearable computers, development of the new systems should be even speedier.”

“Tech is a game of copycatting so I’m not shocked that Apple would jump in,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research. “Apple obviously recognizes that there’s value in it. The company that can provide the most context to the app developers, stands to win big.”

However, Apple’s patent documents note that the device could have a processor, a second display, memory and a user interface.

The patent also claims that the new device could be quite useful for health care applications, such as surgery using CAT scans and MRIs in the surgeon’s field of vision or for firefighters or soldiers who might benefit from a Terminator-like injection of data into their sightline.

“Some examples include applications in surgery, where radiographic data, such as CAT scans or MRI imaging can be combined with the surgeon’s vision,” the Apple patent documents said.

“Military, police and firefighters use HMDs [head-mounted display] to display relevant tactical information, such as maps or thermal imaging data. Consumer devices are also available for use in gaming and entertainment applications.”

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