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Apple files 'in your face' iPhone patent

USPTO humorfest?

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Apple has applied for a patent that describes a pair of goggles into which you can slip your iPhone or iPod touch to view images or video, optionally in 3D.

That is, if we're not being punk'd by such a distinguished agency as the US Patent and Trademark Office on April Fools' Day.

We're not saying that the USPTO is staffed by stuffed shirts incapable of advanced risibility, but patent application number 20100079356, "Head-mounted display apparatus for retaining a portable electronic device with display," is for a device so bizarre that some patent-clerk prankster may very well have been quietly giggling as he slipped it into slot 78 in today's list of 87 new Apple-patent applications.

We'll treat #20100079356 as real, however - what you choose to believe is up to you.

Apple head-mounted display patent

Slip your iPhone into the goggles' frame, and voilà! - instant video glasses

The application envisions a pair of goggles - or, in language straight from Apple's Department of Redundancy Department, a "head-mounted device that is worn on a user's head" - to be used to display images and video.

The filing notes that head-mounted displays already exist, but that they're suboptimal due to the fact that the device which supplies the content to them - an iPhone or iPod touch, for example - is separate from the goggles' display or displays, to which it's connected by a cable.

"Sometimes, however, a wired connection may be inconvenient and cumbersome for the user in certain situations (e.g., the user must separately hold multiple devices and deal with cables)," the filing reads. "In addition to being unwieldy, the coupled system often utilizes redundant features, which are not necessary when using the devices together. By way of example, each device utilizes a display screen, which adds cost, size, weight, and complexity to the entire system."

Apple head-mounted display patent

How the model for this illustration managed to slip his iPhone through his nose, we may never know

The solution devised by the Wizards of Cupertino to obviate this conundrum is to slip the iPhone or iPod touch directly into the goggles's frame, with its display facing the user's eyes. The Apple handheld is thus transformed into a headheld.

Once snuggled into the goggles, the iPhone or iPod touch can display images to the viewer, along with audio through earphones or earbuds. The filing suggests that these images can be divided into right and left components, thus allowing for the display of stereo images that would "create depth to the images by simulating the angular difference between the images viewed by each eye when looking at an object, due to the different positions of the eyes."

To make using the Apple device easier, the filing also envisions a wireless controller that can, well, control the image and video playback by connecting to wireless circuitry in the googles themselves, and communicating with the device over Apple's standard 30-pin connector.

Apple head-mounted display patent

Why muck with pesky cables when you Apple Remote can talk directly to your face?

The filing also notes the option of using the camera of the inserted device to pipe captured stills or videos onto the device's display being viewed by the user. This capability could be triggered, according to the filing, when "the user may have selected a control, issued a voice command, or made a head movement."

In addition, the device could display an augmented reality view, mixing what the camera see with graphics onto the display. "For example," the filing notes, "arrows can be displayed on the display screen of the head-mounted display that corresponds to the direction of detected sound."

You may understandably be concerned that a 4.8 oz (135 gm) iPhone or 4.05 oz (115 gm) iPod touch might make the goggles slip off you nose. Don't worry - the filing has thought of that. To help keep the who contraption on your face, "goggle bands, helmets, straps, hats and the like may be used."

Should this Cupertinian vision of head-mounted kit ever traverse the long and winding road to productization, new frontiers of geekery will open up to the technologically fashion-forward.

That is, unless patent filing #20100079356 is not just an elaborate, 51-page USPTO April Fool's prank. ®

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