Apple Glasses might hold a clever trick that makes these rumored lenses less high-tech than we previously thought. According to a patent, Apple is working on a set of frames that are powered by a companion iPhone, rather than an independent display and software.
As spotted by PatentlyApple, the patent describes a head-mounted device (HMD) that looks like glasses but actually houses an iPhone between two parallel lenses. The result is a gadget that reminds us of Google Cardboard, but more sophisticated.
This isn’t the first time Apple has been awarded an HMD patent that integrates the company’s smartphone, so there’s no guarantee this version will see the light of day. That said, the latest iPhone 12 lineup offers some interesting advancements that make a compatible headset more feasible than ever.
For one, the iPhone’s cameras can be used to create a mixed reality experience thanks to LiDAR technology. Available on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, the LiDAR sensor on the back of the phone can add augmented reality effects to a real-world setting.
LiDAR recognizes the position of objects by sending out waves that bounce off physical things and returning to the iPhone’s sensor for accurate measurements. This allows LiDAR-based AR effects to be positioned relative to the surrounding world.
Without the support of an iPhone, it’s likely Apple Glasses would look to deploy a similar sensor for mixed reality experiences. But cramming that technology in a device people would actually want to wear on their face is no small feat.
As it is, donning a pair of glasses with an iPhone inside couldn’t be comfortable in terms of weight distribution. Perhaps the 4.76-ounce iPhone 12 mini could earn its spotlight as a headset-compatible phone, if it had the same LiDAR sensor as the iPhon 12 Pro models.
If Apple goes the iPhone integration route with its first version of Apple Glasses, the headset would be less ambitious than previously believed. Of course, the shortcut could lead to an earlier launch — the latest rumor positions the Apple Glasses release date sometime in 2023.