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Apple Patent May Be Prelude To iGlasses

Among Apple's current products, the iPod, with its small video screen, would benefit the most from a head-mounted display.

Apple on Thursday filed two patent applications that describe improvements in head-mounted displays, which typically combine one or two small display screens with magnifying lenses inside a helmet or glasses.

In "Enhanced Image Display In Head-Mounted Displays," Apple claims that its approach provides "a wider field of view and [creates] a more natural viewing situation for a user of a head mounted display, which results in improved comfort and usability for head mounted displays."

Among Apple's current products, the iPod, with its small video screen, would benefit the most from a head-mounted display. While Apple does not specifically cite its iPod as a possible video source for wearers of the described head-mounted display, its patent application points out that the "external source can be a portable source."

The second patent,"Peripheral Treatment For Head-Mounted Displays," calls for a system using "a micro-electro-mechanical (MEM)/Laser display architecture." By using a MEM laser display, Apple hopes to avoid problems with existing head-mounted displays, namely the sensation of looking into a box and motion sickness that may be caused by limiting peripheral vision.

While Apple points out the shortcomings of OLED and LCoS microdisplays -- longevity, resolution, and rainbow effects, among others -- it also acknowledges potential issues with MEM laser systems. The second patent application notes that with MEM lasers, "there are currently some concerns about safety and power consumption."

Apple's ability to address those concerns will likely determine if and when its iGlasses become a reality. Having already weathered criticism about iPod-induced deafness, Apple no doubt is eager to avoid releasing a head-mounted display that might damage a wearer's vision.

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