Apple wearables may soon resemble the futuristic space armor depicted in Mass Effect: The Cupertino-based company was granted a whopping 63 patents on Tuesday. The most interesting of the bunch? A futuristic headband that could be used as a component in an array of high-tech gadgets, from virtual reality goggles, to augmented reality visors, or even a pair of tricked out headphones.
The concept depicts a headband that uses audio output and haptic feedback to communicate with users. That could bring about headsets that vibrate when users cycle through audio or visual options. It could even be implemented in the upcoming “AirPods 2”, which are expected to arrive as a set of over-ear headphones. The designs were published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
It’s fun to picture all the different applications. Imagine, for example, a pair of AirPods that vibrate slightly to notify users when their biometric data seems irregular or when they’re low on battery. The blueprints of the concept also depict how the component could be incorporated into a VR headset that would use tactile and audio feedback to provide a more fully immersive experience. Here’s the patent:
A wearable electronic device may include a wearable band and audio output transducers carried by the wearable band. The wearable electronic device may also include respective haptic actuators carried by the wearable band and adjacent respective ones of the audio output transducers.
Previously published Apple patents have offered evidence that the company is planning a pair of over-ear headphones with an adjustable elastic band. Tuesday’s patent specifically includes a blueprint of over-ear headphones with built-in haptics features. This strongly suggests that Apple has far more in store for its future headphones than noise-cancelling or a water-proof exterior.
There are other likely applications for the headband. Trusted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has also predicted that the company plans to release a pair of AR glasses as early as 2020. The patented headband could provide tactile feedback when users are interacting with virtual items in an AR environment.
Apple has seen tremendous success with its wearable devices and this patent is a sign that the company has long-term plans to continue innovating in the space. SVP Luca Maestri said Apple’s wearables business is “approaching the size of a Fortune 200 company.” That’s not bad considering the company only has two lines of wearable products at the moment, the Apple Watch and the AirPods.
Within a few years, Apple could be manufacturing visor-like products akin to devices seen in popular video games.