Apple VR headset may use fluid-filled lenses to counter a user's bad eyesight.

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited February 4
An Apple VR or AR headset may be able to automatically adjust the lenses placed in front of the user's eyes by using fluids to deform the shape of the lens to improve the user's eyesight.

A headset by Magic Leap
A headset by Magic Leap


The fundamental part of augmented reality and virtual reality is that the user must be able to see the virtual content. Given this typically involves the use of a display very close to the user's eyes, a position that may be hard to focus on for long periods of time, VR headset producers use optical lenses positioned between the eyes and the screen, adjusting the perceived focal distance for the user and making it more comfortable to look at.

Modern systems include mechanisms to adjust the way the lenses function for the user, such as changing the distance between the lenses to match the user's pupillary distance or the distance the lenses are from the eyes. There may be a need to change the lenses in some situations, such as if the user wears glasses and needs to remove them to wear the headset.

While the distance-related changes are relatively trivial problems, changing the lenses may not be practical. This could involve changes in the lenses between individual users who probably don't share the same eyesight issues.

In the patent titled "Electronic device with a tunable lens," Apple suggests the problem of lens selection and switching could be mitigated by using a single lens system. One that takes advantage of fluid and pressure to adjust a more malleable lens quickly and with relatively little user effort.

In summary, what App suggests is a series of lens components around a central fluid chamber that can be inflated and emptied by a connected pump and reservoir. Pushing liquid into the chamber increases its volume, pushing connected lenses out or making them flex, changing their optical properties and, therefore, what the user can see.

A fluid reservoir could pump liquid into a void to make lenses thicker.
A fluid reservoir could pump liquid into a void to make lenses thicker.


Depending on the lenses' arrangement, the various elements could form a catadioptric lens, where the thickness is depending on the liquid-filled section.

As an extension of this, there could be multiple fluid chambers in use, with varying stiffness profiles, allowing for different types of lenses to be created by shaping the liquid sections rather than using it as a filler for a thicker lens. The stiffness profiles could be defined by simply having thicker membranes for the sections.

Furthering the concept more, Apple suggests the flexible lenses could have multiple actuators around the edge, which can create more adjustments to the shape of the lens, such as piezoelectric actuators or voice coil actuators. These could bend or compress the edges of the flexible element, altering the optics more.

Apple files numerous patent applications weekly, but while a patent's existence indicates areas of interest for Apple's research and development efforts, they do not guarantee the ideas will appear in a future product or service.

The patent lists its inventors as James E. Pedder, Igor Stamenov, Cheng Chen, Enkhamgalan Dorjgotov, Graham B. Myhre, Victoria C. Chan, Xiaonan Wen, Peng Lv, Yuan Li, Yu Horie, and Siddharth S. Hazra. It was originally filed on July 23, 2019.

Actuators can deflect a fluid-filled lens and adjust its optical properties.
Actuators can deflect a fluid-filled lens and adjust its optical properties.


The idea of using fluids to adjust lenses isn't new, as it has been used in a variety of ways. For example, charitable efforts have attempted to distribute spectacles with water-filled lenses that could be adjusted via a syringe.

Apple is believed to be working on some form of AR or VR headset, as well as potentially creating smart glasses tentatively titled "Apple Glass." Naturally, these efforts have resulted in many related patent applications.

This includes examining the potential to use holographic imaging to lighten the weight and minimize the size of its headsets, waveguides to combine digital elements with a real-world view, and a "foveated display" for improved image processing.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    What I need is something that could scan the surface of my retina and adjust the lens shape accordingly, because my one retina is a complete mess, and can't be fixed with just a regular prescription. :'(
    drdavid
  • Reply 2 of 9
    Someone at Apple might be a Dune fan. Frank Herbert had oil lens binoculars in his novel.

    http://technovelgy.com/ct/content.asp?Bnum=52
  • Reply 3 of 9
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,824member
    What I need is something that could scan the surface of my retina and adjust the lens shape accordingly, because my one retina is a complete mess, and can't be fixed with just a regular prescription. :'(
    Same problem here. It probably comes down to the specific retina/macula issue you're dealing with. The system described above looks like they are using actuators to change the focal point and shape of the lens, which would probably help with distance and astigmatism issues, respectively, but fail to compensate for degenerative disorders or physical distortion of the retina/macula (kinks or rippling of the retina/macula). 
  • Reply 4 of 9
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    What I need is something that could scan the surface of my retina and adjust the lens shape accordingly, because my one retina is a complete mess, and can't be fixed with just a regular prescription. :'(
    How about surgery?
  • Reply 5 of 9
    By the way, Apple is definitely not developing VR goggles. Their area of focus is AR.
  • Reply 6 of 9
    It would be cool if it replaces prescription glasses and enhances the everyday experiences.
  • Reply 7 of 9
    It would be cool if it replaces prescription glasses and enhances the everyday experiences.
    An oil lens would be heavier than just a glass lens.
  • Reply 8 of 9
    Someone at Apple might be a Dune fan. Frank Herbert had oil lens binoculars in his novel.

    http://technovelgy.com/ct/content.asp?Bnum=52

    That's just science fiction. This has nothing to do with forcefields and in fact the page you point to is way behind the times. Adjustable eyeglasses have existed for quite a few years in the real world and in fact are specifically designed to be affordable for poor people in developing countries.



  • Reply 9 of 9
    By the way, Apple is definitely not developing VR goggles. Their area of focus is AR.
    They are rumored to be creating two products glasses and headset. The Rumored headset would likely do both AR and VR. If fact rumors say it will be a lot like the Quest. That would literally make it a VR headset with cameras to add AR. Waveguides are rumored for the glasses. Even waveguide lenses could have a VR mode.
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