Apple is rumored to be planning an VR/AR headset next year, before pushing on with the so-called Apple Glasses after that. Now, an exciting new patent application suggests that the company could use its potentially upcoming eyewear to cement its reputation for putting user privacy front and center.
First spotted by Patently Apple (opens in new tab), much of the patent application (opens in new tab) is dedicated to describing how Face ID profiles could be set to adjust for degrees of visual impairment, but the most interesting section refers to how a screen could adapt to someone wearing “privacy eyewear.”
“In some embodiments, a user may interact with the calibration graphic... to intentionally blur the graphical output presented on the display,” the patent reads. “For example, if a user desires privacy or does not want a nearby person to view what is presented on the display... the user may interact with the calibration graphic... to make the graphical output illegible.”
"Wearing 'privacy eyewear'," it continues, “may counteract the intentional blur.”
In other words, the screen would appear blurred to anyone looking at it, except the person wearing the linked eyewear. That means anybody trying to read emails over your shoulder on the subway will be left sorely disappointed, and you can carry on working in peace, provided you’re wearing your “privacy eyewear.”
As you would expect, the patent application makes no mention of specific hardware, though the diagram above shows something that looks an awful lot like an iPhone to us. That said, there’s no reason why something like this couldn’t equally apply to a MacBook or iPad as long as it has suitable front-facing camera technology in place.
Apple Glasses also aren’t named, which is doubly unsurprising, given they’re merely a strongly rumored product, rather than something Apple has mentioned. But it certainly would appear to be a sensible match, and would tie in with the company’s continued push to be associated with user privacy.
If correct, it does mean that this theoretical feature is still some way off, however. While Apple’s first AR headset may arrive next year according to some reports, Apple Glasses are further off, with those in the know suggesting 2023 at the absolute earliest and possibly later.
It’s also worth noting that companies apply for patents all the time, and it’s not necessarily indicative of something that will appear in a commercially available product: sometimes a patent is just a patent.
But if the technology works as written, then it certainly seems like a sensible path to follow. After all, who doesn’t want to read their private messages in public without having to worry about prying eyes?