'Apple Glass' could overlay future iPhone with AR display to enhance privacy

To anyone else, the iPad screen can seem blank. The owner, using "Apple Glass" or an iPhone, could see a regular iPad screen.

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Apple's iPhones and iPads could provide a privacy screen which, through Augmented Reality, allows only the 'Apple Glass' wearer to see information on their screens.

Apple repeatedly says that privacy is not some add-on extra, it's baked in from the start, and it appears to be demonstrating that with research for the forthcoming "Apple Glass." New proposals show Apple exploring how to leverage Apple AR to effectively create ways to protect privacy more.

"Privacy Screen," a new patent application, proposes a way that limits what anyone but the device owner actually sees. It's specifically meant to get rid of the need for polarized screen covers that cut down the viewing angle.

"[These] traditional privacy screens attenuate some of the light in the direction perpendicular to the display, which reduces the brightness perceived by the user," says the application. "To compensate, a user may remove the privacy screen when privacy is not a concern, in which case the user has to store, transport, and re-install the privacy screen."

The application complains that these screens sometimes cause the device to increase brightness to compensate, and then that reduces battery life. Above all else, a screen can make it awkward to see, markedly affects battery life, and still doesn't prevent everyone seeing it.

Apple's proposal does away with a screen being placed over an iPad or iPhone and instead leverages AR and "Apple Glass." While there are different approaches described in the application, the chief one is a method of using information being presented on the glasses.

If you're wearing Apple Glass and you look at your iPad screen, AR will make it appear to you as if there is a normal display on that device. For anyone around or even behind you, the iPad can look completely blank.

That doesn't sound immediately practical. It's clever that AR can map a display onto the iPad's screen when you're looking at it. But it would seem more sensible to just put that data on the "Apple Glass" screen.

However, this proposed system would do more. As well as passively displaying information to read, the AR system would make it appear that controls were on the iPad screen. The iPad could then register the user tapping on those controls.

The result is that to anyone around you, it appears as if you are randomly tapping on a blank screen. But to you, it is exactly as if you are using a regular iPad or iPhone.

Detail from the patent showing (left) a
Detail from the patent showing (left) a "blank" screen and (right) what the Apple Glass wearer could see

As well as relying on the iPad, or similar screen, to register taps, the application discusses how a pair of devices can determine their relative position. In this case, the privacy aspect could be that when you lift your Apple Watch, it recognizes that you're not looking at your iPhone.

It could route required information to the Watch's display and blank the screen on the phone.

The patent application is credited to two inventors, Clement Pierre Nicolas Boissi Re and Timothy R. Oriol. The latter has multiple previous patents including potentially related ones on graphics rendering, and "dynamic display refresh rate based on device motion."