Interest in Apple's plans to move into the wearable devices market has curious minds linking together what breadcrumbs Apple has let fall behind it.
Insider Monkey has proposed that Apple might be working on a Google Glass competitor that combines the technology described in the interactive augmented reality (AR) patent Apple won in March with the indoor mapping capabilities it inherited with its March acquisition of WiFiSlam.
The AR system described in Apple's patent uses iOS features such as the multitouch screen, the camera, connectivity and more to, for example, identify objects in a live video stream. In the patent example, a user holds a device over a circuit board and the AR technology makes clear what the user is looking at—the processor, the memory card, capacitors. It's a real-time map overlay of sorts.
In another example, a user looks at a view of San Francisco and has various landmarks pointed out.
(This also brings to mind Nokia's mapping capabilities, which include using the camera for more information about what's around the user, from restaurants to bus service.)
Insider Monkey points out that the latter implementations could be used with technologies already found on the iPhone or iPad, although an earlier filing related to the same types of ideas was "more ambitious."
"It proposes iPads whose display screens have a viewing area with a transparent portion, enabling a user to view objects behind the electronic device by looking through the display screen," said the report.
Add to these ideas WiFiSlam's ability to pinpoint a user's location through WiFi signals and, for Apple, it "isn't a far-fetched science fiction to launch an AR-powered iOS device," said the report, as smartphones already do these things, just in a less-efficient form factor than Google Glass.
"All that would be required," it added, "would be for a wearable device to have mobile data connectivity, a database to reference, a transactional app, and a credit card or equivalent, on file."
Could an Apple headset be in the works? Such a product would likely complement the other wearables Apple is rumored to be working on—an iRing, for controlling Apple's rumored iTV, and an iWatch.
The iWatch rumor gained further credibility April 10, when 9to5Mac posted a screenshot of an Apple ad—since removed—looking for a senior optical engineer capable of leading "the investigation on emerging display technologies such as high optical efficiency LCD, AMOLED and flexible display to improve overall display optical performance."
The ideal candidate, who would be working in Santa Clara Valley, Calif., would have "hands-on experience and a proven track record in design, development and technical investigation of display technologies," as well as an "in-depth understanding of display technology," the ability to problem-solve and excellent communication skills.
Apple patents, further feeding the iWatch rumors, have also been discovered for a flexible device that mimics a "slap bracelet," and for devices that feature flexible displays that can be rolled up or laid flat and that extend the display area to the currently underutilized portions of smartphones—the sides and rear surfaces.