Microsoft patent points to augmented reality glasses

November 23, 2012 | 12:19

Tags: #ar #augmented-reality #patent #project-glass #wearable-computing

Companies: #google #microsoft

Microsoft has applied for a patent which suggests the company is looking to branch out from games consoles and tablets and into wearable computing, taking on Google's upcoming Project Glass head-mounted computer system with an augmented reality creation of its own.

A patent filing spotted by Unwired View points to a head-mounted computing system which combines an integrated camera with a head-mounted display for overlaying additional information on a real-world live view - Terminator-vision for the masses, in other words.

Unlike Google's Project Glass, which is a lightweight system designed to provide much of the functionality of an Android smartphone or tablet in a head-up display, the Microsoft version has a more specific focus. According to the patent filing, the system would be worn during live events - concerts, sports, lectures and the like - in order to provide a live, constantly-updated stream of supplemental information.

The system should be transparent to the user, Microsoft claims. 'A user wearing an at least partially see-through, head mounted display views the live event while simultaneously receiving information on objects, including people, within the user's field of view, while wearing the head mounted display,' the patent's abstract explains. 'The information is presented in a position in the head mounted display which does not interfere with the user's enjoyment of the live event.'

What sort of information does Microsoft have in mind? The patent describes the glasses as providing everything from live translation of speech or text to instant replays of sports plays, all available live and without taking your eyes off the main action - an issue with existing accessories like tablets and smartphones, the company claims.

Augmented reality isn't new, of course: the military has been using head-up displays that can overlay targeting information for years, while commercial versions are seeing increasing traction in educational and industrial fields. Most cameraphone platforms have apps available which overlay information on a real-world view, from translation to navigation directions. Microsoft's vision for the technology goes further, however, and its use of transparent displays should mean a more immersive experience - and one that doesn't require you to take your eyes off the action.

What the patent application lacks, naturally enough, is a hint as to when - or even if - the company is thinking about bringing a product to market. Should Google's Project Glass prove popular, however, it's easy to imagine Microsoft launching Surface Glasses to compete in yet another arena with its long-time rival.
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