New Apple patent reveals comfortable VR headset with eye tracking

Issued today by the US Patent Office, a new Apple patent, titled Optical System for Head-mounted Display, reveals a compact and comfortable VR / AR headset with eye tracking and separate lenses for both eyes.

Repported first by Patently Apple, the new headset is aimed at creating a VR headset that’s more compact, given that immersive VR technology of the future relies on smaller and lighter devices that users actually want to wear for longer period of time.

When examining the patent’s description, it becomes clear that a ‘catadioptric’ optical system is fundamental to this design, explains this article. Catadioptric means that the system uses both reflective and refractive elements, including varying polarization elements, to manipulate light along the optical path.

The patent also goes into details about comfortable long-term use, and also the inclusion of sensors for various tracking tasks, and notes that cameras could be employed for measuring the environment and sensing the user’s eye position, which would likely be used for eye-tracking applications.

As VRFocus notes, the patent might be related to Apple’s acquisition of Vrvana last year, an AR / VR startup which Apple bought for $30 million USD, along with Vrvana’s Totem headset that might have played some part in inspiring this new patent. Anyway, this looks like a stepping stone toward a future physical VR and/or AR headset product offered by Apple.