Microsoft unveiled the HoloLens 2 augmented reality headset at MWC 2019, and as cool as the hardware is, it is aimed at the commercial market and carries the price tag to go with it. Consumers aren't the market Microsoft's fancy new headset targets, but a new patent filing shows how the software giant plans to bring virtual and mixed reality to the consumer masses via an AR smartphone app.
Credit: Microsoft via USPTO
A patent application has surfaced that outlines part of what Microsoft plans to do for consumers with mixed reality technology on smartphones. The patent document states that in a virtual reality experience, virtual imagery is displayed in the field-of-view of the user, to provide what Microsoft calls a "life-like, convincing feeling of occupying the experience." That virtual experience should also allow the user to interact with virtual objects.
To facilitate that interaction, Microsoft mentions input devices such as handheld controllers with translational and rotational input. The patent line art shows a person wearing goggles of some sort, seemingly able to view their smartphone in the virtual environment they are exploring. The patent mentions the ability to receive user input from a touch-sensitive input device in a virtual reality experience. Microsoft says that the smartphone is a good touch input device because people are very familiar with them from repeated daily interactions.
Other than using touch input from the screen of the smartphone alone, different types of inputs would be usable; presumably, that means smartphone buttons and perhaps use of motion sensors, though the patent doesn't clarify that. Microsoft is also eyeing the expansion of phone features with mixed reality overlays. The description Microsoft details offers an idea of what the company has in mind, "In some examples, the user interface may provide additional information and interaction points beyond a user interface created by the input device itself."
Extra tabs or menus overlaid on or near the device is in the realm of what Microsoft is envisioning here. As with all patent applications, the tech outlined in this filing may or may not ever come to pass in an actual Microsoft product, though it's an interesting concept none-the-less.