It came to light in 2008 that an Apple research team was working on a visual headset for the iPod. In recent months news has surfaced that a next generation super high res micro OLED display is ready to support new visual headsets coming to market later this year. The stunning miniature displays pack quite the punch with a resolution of 2560 x 2048. Since that news, we've reported on a Sony research team working on a video headset for a future PlayStation while noting that Google may want in on this new market as well. While the race is clearly on to get the first commercially successful video headset to market, Patent Bolt has discovered that Microsoft has been secretly working on a video headset since September 2010. A New Microsoft patent reveals that they've been working two styles of headset. The first relates to an aviation styled helmet aimed at Xbox gamers while the second resembles a pair of sunglasses for use with smartphones, MP3 players and other future devices. With Microsoft's success with Kinect for gaming and beyond, it would appear to me that they might just have the edge in this race. Today's report provides you with a few insights into one of Microsoft's latest projects.
Microsoft's Patent Background
Microsoft states that a compact display system may be coupled into goggles, a helmet, or other eyewear. These configurations enable the wearer to view images from a computer, media player, or other electronic device with privacy and mobility. When adapted to display two different images concurrently--one for each eye--the system may be used for stereoscopic display (e.g., virtual-reality) applications.
As the human eye can't focus on images less than a few centimeters away, a compact display system may be configured to provide the display image as a virtual image--e.g., an image formed in a focal plane located more than a few centimeters from the eye. One challenge in this field is to form such an image using a compact, robust optical arrangement, which also provides suitable image resolution and fidelity
Microsoft's Proposed Solution
One of Microsoft's invention embodiments provides us with a look at a virtual-image projector. Technically speaking, the projector comprises a laser configured to form a narrow beam, first and second dilation optics, first and second redirection optics, and a controller. The first and second dilation optics each have a diffraction grating.
The first dilation optic is arranged to receive the narrow beam and to project a one-dimensionally dilated beam into the second dilation optic. The second dilation optic is arranged to receive the one-dimensionally dilated beam and to project a two-dimensionally dilated beam, which provides the virtual image.
The first and second redirection optics are each operatively coupled to a transducer. The first redirection optic is arranged to direct the narrow beam into the first dilation optic at a first entry angle. The second redirection optic is configured to direct the one-dimensionally dilated beam into the second dilation optic at a second entry angle. The controller is configured to bias the transducers to vary the first and second entry angles.
Microsoft's Virtual Image Displays for Glasses
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 1 shown below we see an example head-mounted display device (10) which is an example of video-display eyewear. Although the eyewear may closely resemble an ordinary pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses, the fact is that the device includes a pair of projectors (12A and 12B) which project virtual display images for view by a wearer. More particularly, the virtual display images are projected directly in front of the wearer's eyes. To this end, the device includes a wearable mount configured to position the projectors a short distance in front of the wearer's eyes.
In the illustrated embodiment, the wearable mount takes the form of conventional eyeglass frames (14). In one embodiment, each projector may project a 16:9 aspect ratio image that will appear to the wearer as if it were 21 inches in diagonal and viewed at arm's length. The device also includes controller 16, which controls the internal componentry of the projectors in order to form the virtual display images.
In one embodiment, projectors 12A and 12B may project virtual display images of infinitely distant objects, where the lens of the human eye adjusts to an infinite or near-infinite focal length to focus on such objects.
The Ability to View External Objects as well as Virtual Display Images
An interesting patent point states that the projectors may be at least partly transparent, so that the wearer can see external objects as well as the virtual display images. Unlike other projects that I've read about or have seen involving glasses or head mounts shut out the real world entirely. Microsoft's take on this appears to be one that's a little more realistic in that gamers could go deeper into the game while being able to see a part of their real world surroundings in the periphery.
The patent goes on to state that the glasses shown in FIG. 1 include lenses 18A and 18B arranged in front of the projectors. The lenses may be configured to correct the focus and/or brightness of the external objects for the comfort and vision needs of the wearer. This arrangement may allow the wearer to shift his or her focus between the external objects, a finite distance away, and virtual display images an infinite distance away.
Possible Stereoscopic 3D Imaging
In one embodiment, controller (16) may cause projectors 12A and 12B to project the same virtual display image concurrently, so that the wearer's right and left eyes receive the same image at the same time. In another embodiment, the projectors may project slightly different images concurrently, so that the wearer perceives a stereoscopic, i.e., three-dimensional image.
Microsoft's Virtual Image Displays for Xbox Gaming
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 2 noted above we see another example of a head-mounted display device (20) in the form of a helmet having a display visor (22) which has projectors 12A and 12B arranged behind it. The helmet styled device may be used in applications ranging from video gaming to aviation. Think of the aviation helmet in Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2 video game. Wouldn't it be cool to have Microsoft's Xbox Helmet accessory for games like that or others like Dead Space or Halo? For die-hard gamers, being able to really get into the game with such gear is going to be a blast.
Exploded View of the Eyewear Projector
Microsoft's patent FIG. 3 shown below illustrates an exploded view of an example projector # 12 which includes an illuminator (24), shown schematically in FIG. 4. Coupled in the illuminator are red laser 26, green laser 28, and blue laser 30. The red, green, and blue lasers may be semiconductor lasers--low-power diode lasers, for example, or any other suitable lasers.
In the embodiment illustrated in Microsoft's patent FIG. 3, the red, green, and blue lasers are independently biased and modulated via the controller 16. The illuminator includes merging optics 32A and 32B--waveguides or partially silvered mirrors, for example. The merging optics are arranged to merge the monochromatic emission from each of the lasers to form narrow beam 34 which is a beam having a point-like cross-section. The divergence of the beam may be approximately one wavelength divided by the beam diameter--e.g., for green light with a beam diameter of 1.0 mm, the divergence may be 0.5/1000 radians, or 0.03 degrees.
A display image may be formed by sweeping a laser beam over a two-dimensional area while modulating the beam to illuminate selected points in the area. When the area includes a reflective or scattering surface at an appropriate depth for focusing, a direct display image may be formed on the surface.
Alternatively, a virtual display image may be constructed, for instance, so that light from a given focus of the image travels in parallel rays through an observer's pupil. When brought into focus, this image appears to the observer to be that of a far-away object. In principle, a narrow beam could be used directly to form such an image.
The first and second dilation optics used in the eyewear may comprise of glass, acrylic, or polycarbonate monoliths, for example, while other suitably transparent structures are contemplated as well.
About the patent figures: FIG. 5 shows first redirection optic 48 coupled to transducer 54; FIG. 6 shows another view of first dilation optic 36, with second redirection optic 56 installed; and FIG. 7 shows the second redirection optic isolated for clarity and rotated with respect to its orientation in FIG. 3.
Microsoft's patent application was originally filed in Q3 2010 and published by the USPTO in Q1 2012. It should be noted that patent figures represent conceptual products while pointing to specific technical aspects detailed in the patent application. Patent application figures aren't to be confused with prototypes or design patents illustrating the actual look of the commercial product.
Notice: Patent Bolt presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. About Comments: Patent Bolt reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
Here are a Few Sites covering our Original Report
MacSurfer, Twitter, Facebook, Real Clear Technology, Dingo, Joystiq, EGM Now, Xboxway, WPDang China, Reddit, Pervasive Entertainment Times, SlashGear, Monster Tech Blog, The Daily Wh.at, Dvice, Kotaku, Engadget, Atomix Mexico City, TeknoUp Indonesia, VG 24/7, BGR, Wired Gadget Lab, Game Industry Biz, Eurogamer, Game Informer, know Your Mobile, Techmundo Brazil, V2 Finland, GameVicio Brazil, Outer Space Brazil, Niubie Chile, Gamer Nana Israel, BGR Germany, CNET Asia, Coolaler China, GX-mod French, ITProPortal, IGN UK, GameZone and Ars Technica.
Techmeme, Digital Trends, CNET, Lens of Truth, Spieletipps Germany, Xboxlife Denmark, Game Vision Latvian, InsideGamer Netherlands, Tarreo Spanish, Xboxygen French, Digital Spy, Computer and Video Games, Metro UK, Baixaki Jogos Brazil, Gazeta Poland, NeoTeo Spanish, , IT espresso Spain, Tweakers.net Netherlands, Neowin.net, Conecti Mexico, Official Xbox Magazine, Shack News and Bug Hungary.
InsiderGamer Netherlands, Crave UK, Tierra Gamer Spanish, GameStar Germany, Techline Hungary, Worldtuga Portugal, Gaming Unwrapped,Punto Informatico Italy, AusGamer Australia, Kurzweil AI, Game Spark Japan, QR Code Press, 33RD Square,Racunalniske-Novice Slovenian Computerra Russia, Wired Japan, Zonared Spanish, Pixel Geek Brazil, The Seattle Times, InformationWeek, Thinkdigit, IT World, Entertainment Technology Center, Geek and Chic Italy, Caschys Blog Germany, The Vista Russia, PriyoTech Bengali, BBC UK, and more.
Note: The sites that we link to above offer you an avenue to make your comments about this report in other languages. These great community sites also provide our guests with varying takes on Microsoft's latest invention. Whether they're pro or con, you may find them to be interesting, fun or feisty. If you have the time, join in!