On Thursday, Kotaku Australia editor Mark Serrels stumbled upon an Australian patent, filed by Microsoft, entitled "Automatic text scrolling on a head-mounted display". At first, Mark probably thought it had something to do with an earlier story, published Tuesday, regarding another patent from the software giant for a gaming device made up of glasses and a helmet. Upon further investigation, however, it became clear that the new patent was for something entirely different and, even stranger, had only been filed in Australia.
Along with a plethora of images of questionable artistic ability from the patent, we have some detailed descriptions of the invention's intended capabilities. An adventure through the various forms and documents submitted to AusPat reveals the following excerpts:
...in one embodiment, a HMD device is provided which includes a see-through lens, a microdisplay, a sensor and a control circuit. The microdisplay projects augmented reality images, including text, through the see-through lens, to an eye of a user. The sensor tracks gaze direction, focal distance and/or biological metric of the user.
"Biological metric"? That's an interesting tidbit, one that's thankfully expanded on:
Body temperature can be measured in one approach, by a temperature sensor which contacts the user's skin ... the eye tracking camera could also be used to determine blood glucose level ... a technique which floods the conjunctiva of the subject with electromagnetic radiation in the mid-infrared range and measures analyte concentrations.
I'm sure it's harmless, but that doesn't mean the idea of having my eyeballs bombarded by radiation isn't a little off-putting. Not to worry, Microsoft's gizmo will be tracking a lot more than your gaze and glucose:
...a health care monitoring system including a wearable appliance and a heart attack or stroke attack sensor coupled to a wireless mesh network ... a sunglass or eyeglass embodiment contains electronics for communicating with the mesh network and for sensing acceleration and bio impedance, EKG/ECG, EMG, heart sound, microphone, optical sensor or ultrasonic sensor in contact with a wearer's skin.
Oh, there's an ear piece too:
...an ear module 310 contains optical sensors to detect temperature, blood flow and blood oxygen levels.
Well, that's quite something, that is. A set of glasses (or an eyepiece, potentially) that displays text and images using augmented reality -- so on things in your environment, be they a TV screen or your cat's head. While its presenting you with all this fancy information, it'll be analysing almost everything about your bodily state, from your heart rate to blood glucose levels. There's also mention of wireless capability, so that data is going to be transmitted somewhere -- probably to your PC or Xbox and, eventually, a server rack in Washington.
If you're wondering who came up with this invention, it's the work of Alex Kipman, best known for inventing Kinect and one Robert Crocco, a Xbox software design engineer. I've never heard of Crocco, but Kipman certainly sounds like the man you'd want working on this.
Microsoft hasn't said anything about the device officially as far as I can tell, and there's no reason why it'd talk about it until it had something definitive to show. All we have for now is this patent... and an idea of just how chummy Redmond wants to get with each and every one of you.
For more crazy pictures from the patent, please visit Kotaku Australia.