That’s what we can posit from a new Apple patent (opens in new tab), flagged by Patently Apple (opens in new tab), which shows how a Digital Crown could be used to easily control functions like zooming on Apple’s much-rumored mixed and augmented reality headsets.
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That sounds like a neat way to control a VR or MR headset or pair of smart glasses, But the extra interesting feature here is the haptics Apple is proposing to put into such a “crown input.”
“The crown module can further include a feedback system that provides localized haptic feedback at the crown,” the patent explained. “The haptic feedback can be effectively perceived by the user at the crown without causing the entire head-mountable device to vibrate against the head and/or face of the user.”
Such a system could allow for more tactile control. Going by our experience with VR headsets with integrated controls, having controls that offer a form of feedback that allows for initiative control when you can't actually look at the device you are controlling, would be welcome. Touch panels on VR headsets, for example, can occasionally be a little tricky to get used to.
According to the patent, this haptic feedback could be varied so that a wearer of an MR headset or AR glasses gets a distinct bit of feedback to detail when they are starting and when they are stopping interacting with something. For example, one vibration could signal the start of zooming into augmented reality map data with another signaling when they’ve reached the maximum practical zoom limit.
Combined with audio and visual feedback, the haptic Digital Crown system patent somewhat describes an idealized MR and AR headset experience where a variety of sensors allow for better control and responses from a wearable device.
“Other user sensors can perform facial feature detection, facial movement detection, facial recognition, eye tracking, user mood detection, user emotion detection, voice detection,” the patent noted.
Patents often describe feature-rich devices and concepts that, if they become a reality, are not as well equipped as first envisioned, But Apple has a reputation for taking existing tech and refining it into killer products.
And Cupertino could do this for an MR headset and the Apple Glass. However, all we have are leaks, rumors and speculation to go off, so it might be some time before we see such ideas detailed in Apple patents become a reality.