Apple developing system to keep VR users from bumping into real-world objects

Apple is developing a system to alert users of physical objects when they are immersed in a virtual reality environment.

The Cupertino tech giant is said to be working on various virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) systems, including an “Apple Glass” mixed reality headset. While AR devices don’t obstruct a user’s view, the same can’t be said of headsets or VR experiences.

Apple has a solution. In a patent application titled “Detecting Physical Limits” and published Thursday, the company details a system that could help VR users bump into objects in their physical environment.

As the company points out, a VR device could completely immerse a user in a simulated environment. This would prevent them from seeing or noticing objects in their real and real environment.

“One of the challenges of computer simulated reality is that while interacting with the virtual objects displayed by a head-mounted device, the user can be so immersed in the virtual reality environment that they lose consciousness. physical obstacles and / or boundaries in their physical vicinity. The head mounted device may be opaque and cover both eyes of the user in some embodiments. Therefore, the user may not be able to see (eg, view directly) the user’s physical environment, “the s.

To avoid colliding with real world objects, the VR device could determine the distance between itself and a physical object.

An example of the virtual view that a user can see. Credit: Apple

“The virtual reality device further determines whether the device has approached a (first) threshold distance of a physical object from a physical environment,” according to the patent. “If the device determines that it is too close to the physical object, the device displays a visual effect in the virtual reality environment alerting the user to the presence of a physical obstacle nearby.”

Apple gives the example of a glass plane effect that could appear in the simulated VR setting. This virtual glass plane, which would correspond to a real wall or other object, could deter a user from running into the obstacle. Other examples could turn physical objects like furniture into simulated objects like a parasol.

If a user chooses to ignore these virtual signals and move closer to the obstacle, the VR device could display a live image or video of its physical surroundings. This way, a user can see their surroundings without removing a VR headset.

The patent application, first filed in March 2020, lists Seyedkoosha Mirhosseini, Avi Bar-Zeev and Duncan AK McRoberts as inventors. None of these have been listed in earlier Apple patents, although Avi Bar-Zeev has worked on intellectual property for companies like Microsoft and Amazon.

While most of Apple’s efforts have focused on AR and mixed reality through platforms like ARKit, some reports suggest that a strictly VR system may be in the works in Cupertino.

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