Apple Insider (opens in new tab) reported that Apple applied filed with USPTO (opens in new tab) for a system titled “Audio-Based Feedback for Head-Mountable Device.” This would use multiple microphones that detect sounds, even those your own ears might struggle to pick up. And the prospective smart glasses could provide visual indicators that direct the user to the source of the sound.
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The rumored Apple Glass isn’t named anywhere. But this feature was clearly conceived with smart glasses in mind, as the lenses could show these visual notifications as part of a heads-up display.
The idea of using microphones that can detect sounds outside your normal field of hearing also suggests a navigational purpose behind this feature: helping you find your way around familiar places by using sound cues as well as visual references. That said it could also have potential as a hearing aid, providing visual warnings of more nearby sounds like traffic or shouting.
Further to this, an older patent (opens in new tab) indicated the Apple Glass could use onboard speakers to produce realistic sound effects in tandem with visual elements. So the glasses could potentially even play synthesized versions of sounds the user can’t hear, but the microphones can detect.
Apple has also apparently looked into making the Apple Glass self-cleaning. Yet another USPTO filing (opens in new tab), titled “Particle Control for Head-Mountable Device,” describes an “optical module that removes particles from an optical pathway and captures the particles so they do not interfere with the user's view.”
This sounds even more futuristic than 3D audio, and the patent doesn’t fully explain how such a module would clear dirt from the Apple Glass’ lenses. The closest it comes to is mentioning an actuator device that would “vibrate the display element,” so it would most likely work by shaking detritus off the Apple Glass by vibrating the lenses.
It all sounds very fancy, but then these are only the latest bleeding-edge features rumored for the Apple Glass. Others have included Zoom-style backgrounds for the display and augmented low-light vision. Meanwhile, one leak actually went the other way, suggesting Apple Glass would use an iPhone screen in a similar manner to Google Cardboard.
At this point, it’s arguably a safe bet to say Apple currently is working on the Apple Glass. But we’ll need to wait and see which features end up making it onto the finished product.