Apple patent reveals AR Glasses that feature Photochromic Lenses for adjustable opacity

Apple Glass
Apple Glass (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • An Apple patent has revealed details of Augmented Reality Glasses that use Photochromic Lenses.
  • The patent features a head mounted device with a transparent display that can provide images to a user.
  • It describes how a user could view real-world objects whilst a computer-generated image is displayed over selected portions of that object.

An Apple patent published today has revealed details of a head-mounted device with a transparent display, that can display computer-generated images over real-world objects, compounding rumors that Apple is working on an Augmented Reality headset of some kind.

A report from Patently Apple claims:

Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to devices with displays, and, more particularly, to head-mounted displays. More specifically, Apple notes that "A head-mounted device such as a pair of augmented reality glasses that is worn on the head of a user may be used to provide a user with computer-generated content that is overlaid on top of real-world content." Apple's invention covers a head-mounted device that may have a transparent display. The transparent display may be formed from a display panel that provides images to a user through an optical coupler. A user may view real-world objects through the optical coupler while control circuitry directs the transparent display to display computer-generated content over selected portions of the real-world objects.

According to the report, the device in question features an adjustable opacity system, which could revolve around a photocromic layer, combined with a light source, that could control the level of opactiy, allowing the dimming or blocking of real-world objects to improve contrast.

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

Along with adjustable opacity, the patent covers how users could use the device to view content. Namely, they could view the real-world objects simply through the transparent layer as though wearing glasses. Or, they could view it through an optical coupler in a transparent display that "merges light from real world objects with light from a display panel." There is even provision for configurations whereby images are captured using a forward-facing camera, and then displayed for a user.

The report notes that the head-mounted device could seemingly be used with cell phones, tablets, glasses, heads-up displays in cockpits, vehicles or projectors and televisions.

The full breakdown of the patent can be found here, and whilst the language is seemingly pretty dense, we can at least glean that Apple seems to be seriously considering how it could bring Augmented Reality to the masses through some kind of headset. This patent also reveals how photocromic technology could be used to improve the visual experience by bringing adjustable opacity to any such headset.

Of course, this is just a patent however, so there's absolutely no guarantee that this tech will ever see the light of day.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9