Augmented Reality: Magic Leap Reveals More

Augmented Reality: Magic Leap Reveals More

After months of speculation, Magic Leap (profiled in a previous GTR article) has just filed its first patent application, catchily entitled PLANAR WAVEGUIDE APPARATUS WITH DIFFRACTION ELEMENT(S) AND SYSTEM EMPLOYING SAME.

Packed with illustrations and diagrams, the company has revealed much more about how it plans to bring about a step change in the world of augmented reality (AR). Building on the term Digital Lightfield, used by the company until now, the patent describes how a tiny system of prisms and lenses will project images directly onto the retina. Simply by wearing a pair of glasses, your eye will become the 'screen'.

The magical creatures depicted in Magic Leap's visually arresting marketing hype would be powered by mobile devices, apps, or small computers worn on the body. When triggered, the system would superimpose these animations into the wearer's immediate surroundings, using GPS, positioning cameras and accelerometers.

It's the method of controlling these experiences which seems to be the major sticking point. Voice commands would be too confusing in a public place, yet using a keyboard-type device would defeat the purpose of AR.

The patent suggests a variety of physical methods of engaging with the Magic Leap technology. The key to the idea is using 'totems' -- 3D objects would act as triggers and labels.

In one drawing, a chunky bracelet is laden with charms corresponding to different social networks. You'd handle the charm to activate the network you want to access. In the same way as using a keyboard or mouse, would render the whole idea pointless, it feels like this approach would somewhat ruin the effect.

But some of the totem concepts are more elegant, with wearers using a pinch to zoom gesture to create a “screen” on an odd-sized piece of metal. And Magic Leap are obviously pretty set on the idea, trademarking the name Sensorywear® to describe such devices.

The illustrations making it clear that the developers intend for their technology to be used in everyday life -- from the supermarket to the gym and the surgery room. 

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