Virtual reality is the future of immersive computer interaction, perfect for intense gaming and enveloping pornography. It’s cousin, augmented reality, a technology that inserts graphics and information over what we’re seeing in the real world, has the ability, however, to revolutionize the way we use our computers in our everyday lives even for mundane things like shopping. And the augmented reality shopping service, PayPal, is looking to get ahead.
The company was awarded an “Augmented Reality View of Product Instructions” patent last week. The system described in the USPTO filing, which was submitted in January and spotted today by UploadVR.com after it was approved, can identify real-life products from stores and overlay online reviews and related items for them onto AR visors or headsets. As its name suggests, the technology patent also outlines a capability to display in AR assembly instructions for products that have already been purchased — since no one likes glancing back and forth between a paper manual when putting together a desk chair. And, of course, there is a bit about how purchases through the system, which would ostensibly be online, can be made via fingerprint – payments are PayPal’s thing, after all.
If you’ve ever taken your phone out of your pocket to do a little online comparison shopping while standing in the aisle of a store, then you get what PayPal is trying to do. In fact, Amazon already has a shopping app that can pull up product info by using a smartphone’s camera to scan either the barcode or general outline of an item in a store. But, assuming we’ll all be wearing Google Glass or HoloLens-like devices on our faces in the future, PayPal wants to help us get past the step of taking out our small screens by projecting relevant shopping info in front of our eyeballs.
Mention of hardware in the patent is pretty scarce – PayPal’s proposed system will be able to identify products in “image data,” which could realistically come from either a smartphone camera or an AR headset camera – so logistics of how seamless or smartphone-free its AR shopping experience actually will be remains unresolved. And this is just all a patent filing, so PayPal’s invention here could also simply wind up on the company’s cutting room floor. (Like the virtual currency patent that was filed by PayPal and eBay back in 2012 and then never seen or heard about since.)
We’ve seen the HoloLens team at Microsoft show off some of the most genuinely unique and awe-inspiring experiences yet in the sphere of reality/virtual reality mix known as AR – including the surreal Project X Ray shooter and the wild holoportation concept. But if PayPal does build out its AR shopping patent, it could join companies like Magic Leap and Amplified Robot in an effort to use this technology to improve everyday life, beyond games and porn.