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Apple's latest patent relates to a head-mounted display

What you need to know

  • Apple has been granted a patent relating to eye tracking.
  • The tracking unit would likely be head-mounted.
  • The patent was originally filed back in 2016.

Apple has been snapping up eye tracking patents all year and its third has now been granted. Just like the others, this one comes from the company's acquisiton of SMI SensoMotoric Instrumments in Germany. And it relates to a fancy head-mounted display system.

As the folks at Patently Apple note, a new patent titled "Eye tracking device and method for operating an eye tracking device" has been granted. This one relates to an eye tracking device that includes an optical system which is capable of capturing at least part of an eye.

The eye tracking device further comprises a processing unit for determining at least one property of the at least one eye, e.g. the gaze direction, based on the captured images. Moreover, the capturing unit is configured to capture a first image and a second image of the at least one part of the at least one eye of the user. The invention also relates to a corresponding method for operating an eye tracking device.

There are multiple potential implementations for such tracking, but they all need to be attached to someone's head in order to work. That could be glasses, a headset, or something else altogether.

The eye tracking device may be a head-mounted eye tracking device, like an eye tracking spectacle device, or an eye tracker integrated in a helmet or also integrated in a head-mounted display device, in virtual reality glasses, in augmented reality glasses or other head worn devices.

We'd strongly suggest checking the Patently Apple piece out because it has way more detail than we're going to get into here. This isn't a particularly new patent either – it was originally filed back in Q4 of 2016 and carries patent number 10,437,327.

It's also very important to remember that not all patents turn into shipping products, especially in the world of Apple. The company applies for patents each and every time one of its engineers invents something worth patenting. Even if it is never likely to appear in a product in Apple's lineup.

Oliver Haslam
Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.