Apple working on holographic heads-up display to surround car's driver

in General Discussion
Apple is working on an improved heads-up display (HUD) system for vehicular use, such as in an "Apple Car," that could display information on side windows or other surfaces.

The windshield that this system could be embedded in.
The windshield that this system could be embedded in.

In a patent granted to Apple on Tuesday, the company outlines its concept for improved HUD technology. Apple first filed for the patent, titled "System with holographic head-up display," in February 2019.

Traditional HUD setups use projected light to display information onto a surface, typically the front windshield of a vehicle. But Apple notes that, because they're tailor-made based on the fixed design parameters and angles of a front windscreen, standard HUDs have "undesirable restrictions" on where they can be located.

"For example, a conventional head-up display may be incompatible with the side window of a vehicle because light reflected off of the side window from a display reasonably mounted within the structure of the vehicle does not reach the user's eyes due to the law of reflection," the patent reads.

Apple's system, on the other hand, would rely on a display output device alongside optical combiners formed from holographic elements. These holographic elements could be configured to reflect light at a specific angle.

The configurable angle is important, because Apple notes that it could allow "light to reach a viewer's eyes even when the heads-up display reflects light off a side window in the vehicle." The holographic element could either be non-switchable, which would involve permanently encoded holograms, or switchable by applying an electric field to the system.

As with traditional HUD concepts, Apple's system could take data gathered about a vehicle, its passengers, and the environment around it through a suite of sensors, cameras, and other sources. This data could then be displayed via holographic elements on the front windshield, side window, or presumably, another surface with a different viewin angle.

These data points could include the speed of the vehicle, how much gas is left in the tank, whether every passenger has their seatbelt on, or surrounding dangers. In other words, it could replace the standard dashboard seen in today's cars. But not only that. Apple seems to think the system could be used to create HUD information that "surrounds" a driver or passenger.

For example, data displayed on a side window. As far as why a user could want a HUD on a side window, Apple gives the example of highlighting important information. For example, the system could detect a pedestrian or another vehicle in a side window's view and display some sort of alert highlighting it. It could also provide warning lights letting users know that a car is in their blind spot.

The patent lists Arthur Y. Zhang, Graham B. Myhre; Hyungryul J. Choi, and Matthew E. Last as its inventors. Several of them are regular contributors to inventions likely related to Apple's Project Titan and vehicular development. They're named on patents related to car headlights and in-vehicle virtual reality systems for passengers.

Apple files numerous patents on a weekly basis, so they're a poor indicator of the company's future plans. Despite consistent rumors that Apple is working on some type of vehicular technology, there's no word on when -- or if -- that technology could feature this updated HUD system.


  • Reply 1 of 4
    y2any2an Posts: 131member
    This is technology which has been around for more than 30 years. What is novel and therefore patentable?
  • Reply 2 of 4
    y2an said:
    This is technology which has been around for more than 30 years. What is novel and therefore patentable?
    The article has a link to the patent. Click on it and read it. You might get an idea of the uniqueness by the complexity of the patent. Apple patent lawyers write for the patent office attorneys that review and compare to prior art or obvious art. It is a very expensive proposition at both ends—the deep research and deep experience of the writing of the application and the same research and evaluation at the patent office. 

    The original art (legal term) of Apple is how to display a hologram on window glass.  They mention getting laser light to reflect at a different incidence of departure than arrival with internal composition and engineering of the window glass. Prior holograms are viewed in different and simpler ways and in controlled environments. It’s difficult to produce a non-ambiguous image or highlighting of something in the environment considering all the light reflections you get outdoors within and from outside the car. 

    Edit added after re-read of patent:
    I believe Apple is using their glass engineering skills to embedded some sort of micro-mirrors, that would be transparent to the ambient light, yet have some sort of microscopic mirrors dispersed within the glass to transmit laser projections to the user’s eyes.  End edit.

    I’m not an engineer nor a patent attorney, but I know the patent office doesn’t issue patents for 30 year old tech. Apple’s design prowess is in combining many existing things in new ways that are extremely complex and innovative, yet simple and helpful for the user. And end up seeming obvious in short order due to ease of discovery and use. The original iPhone didn’t have new chips or wires or displays—it was the sum of the parts and their function that was new. That’s why it was only 1 to 2 years to be copied by others.  

    I’ll stop here, as you should read the link.  I pasted the url below if you didn’t notice the word “patent” in blue in the sentence near the beginning of the article that is the link. 
    "…In a patent granted to Apple on Tuesday, …"
    edited December 2020
  • Reply 3 of 4
    These Apple Car post is a like a ghost, many people talk about it but no one ever saw one. 
  • Reply 4 of 4
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    I cringe when people say the Apple Car is "too late" or will be "like a Tesla". Reminds me of the pre-iPhone concepts where people thought it would be a flip phone or "like a Blackberry".

    It's gonna be so innovative and solve so many problems just like all Apple inventions. My money is on Apple waiting to get autonomous driving right.
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