Apple has been beavering away on its augmented reality glasses for a while now, but the applications of the device are sounding more futuristic by the minute. A new patent has been spotted suggesting that the company is working on technology that will turn any surface into a touchscreen.
Patently Apple (opens in new tab) spotted the patent (opens in new tab) which is a "continuation-in-part" application (CIP) and basically builds on a parent patent, adding supplemental details. In this case, the original patents for the Thermal Touch technology were filed by Metaio, which was acquired by Apple in 2015. You can take a look at how the tech utilises information from infrared and regular cameras to create these AR touchscreens in the video below.
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The video does a great job of explaining how it works, but essentially Thermal Touch detects the heat signature generated when touching a surface, and uses it to make any physical object a touchscreen. Examples in the video include links to products overlaid on a magazine, so users can press anything that takes their fancy while flipping through the pages. Apple Glasses wearers (if we see the tech roll out in for the device) can also interact with the digital content in "any environment."
The headset will reportedly be packing 15 cameras. Eight of those will be dedicated to AR features, while six will be used for “innovative biometrics." The last camera will supply “environmental detection.” If Apple pursues the Thermal Touch feature, its mixed reality glasses could be one of the most advanced wearables we've seen to date.
Patent filings aren't indicative of future products by any means. The same goes for CIP applications. We know the technology has been in development since at least 2014, so it's not unfathomable that Apple Glasses could launch with Thermal Touch tech in 2022 — it's reported release date.