The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week published an Amazon patent for an odd-sounding pair of augmented reality smart glasses.
The patent explains how the smart glasses might be wired or wirelessly connected to a device such as a tablet and display video or images from that device in front of the wearer’s eyes. Tapping on the tablet, it explains, transitions a surface in the display from opaque to transparent, making it possible to interact with the real world without taking the glasses off.
“On the one hand, a large screen is beneficial for watching movies, playing games and even reading email comfortably,” reads the patent, which was filed in September 2013. “On the other hand, the larger the screen, the bigger the device, which may be less desirable for a light and portable product. Another problem consumers experience with portable devices, like tablet devices, is the lack of ability to immerse themselves in a tablet experience, such as watching a movie on an airplane.”
To wit: Smart glasses that can switch in and out of transparency might offer the best of both words, providing a big and immersive image while not completely isolating their wearers from the rest of the world.
An Amazon spokesperson has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Although the patent is couched in language describing the glasses as a new form of display for video — an augmented reality concept already in the works from companies such as ODG — it also suggests that the same technology might have mixed reality applications, a la HoloLens and Magic Leap. Because the transparent mode of the glasses lets the user see the real world, virtual images may be “superimposed on a real-world view,” creating the illusion that those computer-generated things exist in 3-D space.
It’s worth noting that all this is subtly different from Microsoft HoloLens’ current approach of putting all the computing power into the glasses themselves, rather than feeding them from an outside source. Meanwhile, a slew of patent applications from Magic Leap filed in August pointed at how the well-funded company is thinking about how to trick your eyes into believing that mixed reality CG images are real.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.