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Apple developing tamper-proof camera indicator for AR headset privacy

Credit: AppleInsider

Last updated

Apple is working on a tamper-resistant recording light indicator system that could allow people around an "Apple Glass" or VR headset user to know if they are being filmed.

The company on Thursday filed for two patent applications detailing external recording indicators, which are already used on devices like the MacBook Pro. However, the patent applications specifically name Apple AR or Apple VR devices and detail systems that could make tampering harder.

According to the patent, the goal of the technology is to let people in an environment know if they are being recorded by an "Apple Glass"-type device. The system includes various mechanisms that could make surreptitious recording impossible.

For example, an "Apple Glass" device could sport an LED recording indicator that lights up if video recording is enabled. Like the camera light on a MacBook, this is an easy way of signaling that the camera is currently in use. However, on a MacBook Pro, a person could simply put tape over the light to block it. Similarly, head-worn devices have their own specific concerns when it comes to covert recording.

As such, Apple has detailed a way to ensure that the recording indicator lights can't be tampered with or covered.

One of the patents, titled "External Recording Indicators," details a system that could analyze a pattern of encrypted visible light from a recording indicator. If that pattern of light isn't detected, then recording would be disabled.

The actual recording indicators could also be positioned around a camera's lenses in a way that makes covering them difficult.

In both that patent application and another titled "Recording indicators," Apple imagines another method of ensuring that recording isn't taking place.

For example, both patents talk about a modular component that could be required for video recording. The system could require that a modular "key" be attached to an AR device before recording is enabled. The simple presence of the modular device could signal to people surrounding an AR device user that recording is taking place.

Both patent applications list the same inventors: Justin J. Schwab, Nathanael D. Parkhill, Andrew McMahon, Jae Lee, Jerome Tu, DK Kalinowski, Nalaka Vidanagamachchi, Yohan Rajan, Cam Harder, and Yoshikazu Shinohara. This is the first time many of them have appeared on an Apple patent.

Apple files numerous patent applications on a weekly basis, so they are a poor indicator of the company's future plans and give no indication of when a specific feature might make it to market.

However, Apple has long been rumored to be developing several head-mounted augmented reality and virtual reality devices, so it's likely that the patent application is just detailing the company's work to ensure that privacy is maintained when those products launch.

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