Instead of each meeting attendee looking at a flat Zoom screen, Apple is looking to the future of video conferencing with Memoji-style avatars arranged in augmented reality around each meeting attendee.
We are all used to Zoom-type meetings, but Apple wants to replace them with avatars, but also organized in AR.
Forget videoconferencing via Zoom, Apple has been looking for a way to use virtual and augmented reality to organize meetings in 3D space. Each participant can be at his own table and “see” the others around them. It’s not quite like having a “Star Wars” hologram of the person, but through screens or glasses, you can see avatars that move and interact.
“Communication system and method for providing a bionic virtual meeting room”, US Patent No. 20200143578, divides the idea into very detailed legal lingo, but the concepts behind it are fascinating.
“The invention relates to a method of operating a communication system making it possible to provide a virtual meeting of at least a first user and at least a second user”, launches the patent. “The invention relates to … the display of a virtual meeting space on a display device [and] detect a biometric characteristic of a first user.
“[It involves] determine an abstraction level associated with the first user from among a plurality of different adjustable abstraction levels, “it continues”, and display, in the virtual meeting space, an avatar representing the first user having the biometric characteristic of the first user . “
“In this way, objects, especially virtual objects, such as an avatar representing the first user, can be presented to the second user over any distance, which can advantageously be used to provide virtual meetings between different users, in particular any arbitrary number of users, in a common virtual meeting room “, explains the patent.
Think about how Animoji and Memoji present an animated face that shows the same mouth and head movements as the user does. The patent stresses that “providing a biometric characteristic” of each user is not only for pleasure, it is to directly improve communication.
“The main area of application of these virtual realities is in the area of entertainment and games,” admits the patent. “But it would be desirable to use these virtual realities also in other fields, in particular in the field of human interaction.”
Detail of a patent drawing describing the devices which could be used to show these meeting avatars
“Such adaptations by the biometric characteristics of the first user are particularly important for human interaction,” he says. “For example, adding gaze directions, blinking or imitation as biometric features to virtual characters in the virtual meeting space can greatly improve the person’s empathy and perception.”
“In many situations, particularly in international, professional or intercultural contacts, it has been considered useful to modulate and moderate individual behavior and appearance in order to attenuate, bias or amplify them in order to support the objective of interaction and communication “, continues the patent.
If it sounds like a step below having holograms of people in the same meeting room, it still requires a method of displaying these avatars for each attendee. This means that the patent goes very far to describe how such avatars could be displayed on devices.
These can be “computers, mobile or augmented reality glasses, tablets or smartphones” and the details of how each avatar is displayed varies from device to device. Still, however, the patent concerns the fidelity of presenting the characteristics of a human being through these avatars.
The invention is attributed to Eberhard Schmidt, who has already been registered on patents for display devices and presenting images on display devices.
This patent does not concern the details of how an avatar can be created or chosen by the user, but only how he can react and display its characteristics. However, a previous Apple patent described how a future iPhone could automatically generate a user’s Memoji from a photograph.