'Apple Car' may control how doors move, offer motion sickness-free VR

The long-rumored Apple car may have doors that prevent passengers from being struck by another vehicle when exiting the car, while an on-board virtual reality system could have added features to minimize the burden. risk of motion sickness.

The Apple car has been the subject of numerous patent applications from Apple over the years, with more and more filings surfacing revealing that it is still working on new elements for the autonomous vehicle. Applications released Thursday by the US Patent and Trademark Office reveal concepts relating to passenger safety and on-board virtual reality systems.

Protective car doors

Typically, a car door provides user safety by simply existing. It helps keep the vehicle rigid, withstands the elements, minimizes the impact felt in a crash, and can even protect passengers from attackers when the door is locked.

While useful, doors obviously do not provide any level of intelligence-derived security features, as they must be manually slid into place and used by the user. However, in the patent application for “Dynamic Element Protection”, Apple suggests that some form of intelligent assistance could be at play.

The file has Apple describing how a car door could be controlled to offer with “dynamic elements located near the vehicle”. This means hazards that can arise like other vehicles or pedestrians, although generally any moving object nearby can be considered a hazard.

Apple Car can control the doors, preventing them from opening if the car sinks.

In short, it is a system which manages whether a door or a window will open or remain closed, as well as to manage the automatic opening of said doors and windows. Depending on the situation, the system may prevent the entrances from opening until it is secure enough to do so.

Using the car’s built-in sensors, the system monitors nearby objects and other moving elements and then acts on that data. For a parked car, he can choose to keep the door closed when another vehicle passes, or to restrict the degree of opening of the door to prevent contact with another vehicle.

While this is a simple example, there are a few other more complex areas on the record, such as whether a car has been parked and is occupied by a passenger or a pet, but without the driver. In such a situation, Apple suggests that the air conditioning could be turned on to maintain the living climate for long periods of time.

In an emergency when the driver is no longer in the vehicle, the car could automatically lock the doors based on the response of other occupants or by directly informing the driver, and if necessary, perform an emergency response if specific conditions are detected.

More dramatically, if a car is partially or fully submerged, the vehicle goes into a full routine of closing windows, locking doors, unlocking safety restraints, deploying flotation devices, and generation of a distress signal. It then supplies air to the interior of the vehicle if needed, then asks if passengers are allowed to leave the vehicle, with a positive response opening windows and doors.

The repository lists its inventors as Tie-Qi Chen, Benjamin B. Lyon, Byron B. Han and Ahmad Al-Dahle. It was originally filed on September 22, 2016.

Apple files many patent applications on a weekly basis, but if the existence of a filing indicates areas of interest to Apple’s research and development efforts, that does not guarantee that the idea will appear in a future product or service.

The filing appears to work well with another patent from September 2019, in which force feedback hinges would adjust the way a door moves during its tilt, including taking into account gravity and how the vehicle is. positioned on unstable ground.

AR and VR screens

Two patent applications concern the use of virtual reality or augmented reality in vehicles.

The first, an “augmented reality display system”, offer with an AR display that is created on one or more transparent surfaces, such as the windshield. The display would in theory be able to show important information to the driver and passengers, such as speed, as well as the location of road hazards both in sight and invisible, such as a car blocked from view by a building.

An on-screen AR view could offer speed notifications on Apple Car's windshield.

An on-screen AR view could offer speed notifications on Apple Car’s windshield.

The same system would be able to provide additional details, such as overlaying improved graphics on road features, such as a brighter road sign in a different language, to make it easier for the driver to see and understand. To drive a route, the same system could highlight the intended path on the road that the driver needs to follow.

This is not the first time that Apple has offered some form of AR view for drivers or passengers, as it has done several times in the past. This included a version overlaying a digital view of the road on the windshield, aligned with the driver’s eye line.

Apple also explored ways to embed display systems in layers of glass, with the image visible to people inside the vehicle but not outside. An August patent explains how layers of glass can be combined with liquid crystal or OLED panels and other layers to create a display sandwich, ideal for assisting with driving.

The record was invented by Kjell F. Bronder, Scott M. Herz and Karlin Y. Bark, and was filed on September 22, 2016.

The other related patent application, the innocent name “Immersive Virtual Display”, is less about creating a superior virtual headset and more about ensuring that the passenger who uses it does not suffer from motion sickness.

One of the problems when creating a VR display is having to make the virtual view match the expectations of the passenger, in terms of the movement and angle of the camera, among other things, with a mismatch in this area leading to motion sickness. In a car there is more movement that the user can be aware of, but in a VR headset it is only felt because the view of the real world is blocked.

Apple plans to tackle motion sickness in in-car VR with moving backgrounds.

Apple plans to combat motion sickness in VR in the car with moving backgrounds.

To combat the effects of motion sickness, Apple suggests that the virtual world could be responsive, especially to the car’s own movements. Taking into account the movements of the car and its onboard sensors, the virtual view could change, like changing direction or speed, to match what the passenger ultimately feels.

The background could be completely independent of user task or activity, such as talking around a virtual meeting cable with a background of a moving desert scene. The system could also provide more accommodation for a passenger if he knows in advance that he is prone to motion sickness.

The repository lists its inventors such as Mark B. Rober, Sawyer I. Cohen, Daniel Kurz, Tobias Holl, Benjamin B. Lyon, Peter Georg Meier, Jeffrey M. Riepling and Holly Gerhard. It was filed on April 29, 2020.

Apple’s previous deposits on in-car VR and motion sickness prevention largely involved the use of inertial measurement devices on the headset and connected mobile devices, rather than relying on the vehicle’s sensors.

Apple isn’t alone in trying to break into in-vehicle VR, as a partnership between Ubisoft and Renault in 2017 aimed to make it an in-car entertainment option for autonomous vehicles.

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