updated 12:05 pm EDT, Thu April 17, 2008
Apple head-mounted display
The US Patent and Trademark Office today published several applications by Apple, two of which are connected to a concept unusual for the company, that of a head-mounted display (HMD). The first describes the HMD itself, which unlike most such displays, would use a laser light engine to render the images displayed in front of the user's eyes. Furthermore, this engine would actually be separate from the necessary glasses, thus reducing their size and weight as well as the effect of heat. To project the laser light, a fiber-optic cable and special wedge optics would be be used. Images could be full-color, and presented with a stereoscopic effect.
The second patent is meant to address a common problem with HMDs, which is the creation of a "box" or "tunnel" effect, due to a lack of any peripheral display. The Apple technology would add peripheral elements to a headset, extending images to the outer regions of vision. Notably, software might be needed to accurately separate the different regions of a display; the filing also mentions the possibility of images in a 16:9 widescreen ratio, and watching movies.
The patents were originally submitted in 2006, and it is not known if Apple has any plans for a commercial HMD.