Two years after Apple first filed a patent application for their Tracked VR Glove, the tech giant has finally been granted a patent of the innovative new device.
Apple had a busy year in 2020. They purchased VR start-up Spaces, which "a bridge between a VR world and Zoom, Skype, Hangouts," integrating 3D avatars into a video conferencing setting.
They then furthered rumours that Apple was gearing up their very own VR solution, including patents for a VR headset which enabled users to be alerted whenever they come in contact with physical objects.
Now the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple the patent for an IMU-based VR glove which is "capable of measuring the movement of individual finger and thumb bones," reports Patently Apple. The original patent, known as Patent #10,877,557 (first submitted on August 28 2018), was approved on the 29th of December.
Admittedly, companies file patents for all sorts of whacky ideas all the time - and Apple is no exception. But if nothing else, Apple's latest patents give us an insight into what kind of thing is being cooked up in Apple's shiny new Apple Park HQ.
The scope of this new device is wide: the patent lists potential applications in various areas including video games, educational learning and military training.
At least, that's what the Background and Summary sections imply. Here are those sections in full, first reported by UploadVR:
BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE
Virtual reality (VR) technology can be used for many applications such as military training, educational learning, and video games. VR technology can use one or more electronic devices to simulate a virtual environment and the user’s physical presence in that virtual environment. One type of VR technology is augmented reality (AR) technology, where the user’s real environment can be supplemented with computer-generated objects or content. Another type of VR technology is mixed reality (MR) technology, where the user’s real environment and the virtual environment can be blended together.
VR/AR/MR technology can be simulated using one or more electronic devices. One electronic device can be a VR headset, where the user can use the VR headset to see the simulated virtual environment. As the user moves his or her head to look around, a display included in the headset can update to reflect the user’s head movement. Another electronic device can include one or more cameras. The one or more cameras can be used to capture the user’s real environment in AR technology and/or can be used for positional tracking. Yet another electronic device can include VR gloves. VR gloves can be worn over the user’s hands and can allow the user to touch, feel, and hold virtual objects in real-time. VR gloves capable of accurately detecting the positions and motions of the user’s hands and fingers without occlusion may be desired.
SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE
This disclosure relates to a VR glove capable of measuring the movement of individual finger and thumb bones. The VR glove can include a plurality of inertial measurement units (IMUs) to track the movement of one or more finger and/or hand sections. The IMUs can include one or more motion sensors, such as a gyroscope and an accelerometer, for measuring the orientation, position, and velocity of objects (e.g., finger bones) that the IMU can be attached. An IMU can be located proximate to a finger (or thumb) bone and can measure the inertial motion of the corresponding bone. In some examples, the VR glove may include magnetometers to determine the direction of the geo-magnetic field. The VR glove can also include one or more other electronic components, such as a plurality of electrodes for sensing the heading, enabling capacitive touch, and/or contact sensing between finger tips. The VR glove can also include force sensors, actuators for haptic feedback, temperature sensors, and heaters. The VR glove can further include logic such as an on-board controller, a connector, a transceiver, a battery, and the like. One or more buses can be used to carry signals between the electronic components to, e.g., the on-hand controller. The VR glove can be a fabric glove where one or more (e.g., all) electronics components can be knitted or woven into the glove. In some examples, the fabric can be stitched together using conductive threads. Examples of the disclosure can further include detecting movement of the glove without using magnetometers by comparing the motion detected by the IMUs with local frame(s). Heading initialization can include rotation optimizers, and heading correction can include detecting irregularities (e.g., collision, rotations, etc.) of the nodes associated with the IMUs.
So, there you have it. And just in the nick of time, too. Apple need to hurry up and get this thing released, as a sequel to VR boxing hit Thrill of the Fight has just been announced with a multiplayer mode to match!