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New Magic Leap Patents Reveal Contact Lens, Tech to Trick Your Eyes

The picture of what the secretive Google-backed company is working on is starting to come into focus.

Magic Leap

What’s Magic Leap working on? Nearly 100 newly published patent applications give us a better idea.

We already knew that the secretive Florida-based mixed reality company, which raised a Google-led $542 million round last year, was developing a wearable device similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens that would display 3-D virtual objects in the real world. A weird concept video released in March showed how such a technology might be used for both productivity and games.

For whatever it’s worth, HoloLens-like glasses that project digital images onto the lenses might be a short-term answer. One of the 97 new patent applications is for a contact lens.

Most of the rest of them, published between Aug. 20 and Aug. 27, underscore Magic Leap’s push to make virtual objects fit seamlessly into their physical environments. Several concern the behavior of “outside light” (that is, the light bouncing off of real-world objects and hitting your eyeballs normally) and how it will be “selectively attenuated,” or dimmed, when it reaches a user.

USPTO

An ordinary pair of sunglasses also selectively attenuates light, dimming certain wavelengths to make it easier to see in bright conditions. But teasing out this idea, it may be that Magic Leap’s glasses will attenuate light that would be coming from the areas where it’s projecting virtual objects, to make those objects look more “real” to our eyes.

Also interesting: There’s a lot of discussion of virtual objects being displayed at different focal planes. What does that mean? Well, you’re looking at a phone or computer screen right now that is effectively one plane, and everything on it is in focus. That’s fine for a monitor that you can look away from, but it’s different for wearables because our eyes don’t focus on everything in the real world equally.

Sources from the digital realities industries told Re/code the important scientific term here is vergence accommodation. Try this: Look at a real object in the distance, and then hold your thumb up in front of your eyes and focus on that. Put your thumb down and look back at the far object.

Notice how the two objects were alternately blurry? Your eyes automatically converged to look at the closer thumb and diverged to look in the distance.

USPTO

Even with one eye closed, the other eye will converge or diverge to focus as well as it can. Your brain would have a very hard time if everything in the world looked in focus all the time, which is how today’s computer screens display things — everything on the same focal plane.

With Magic Leap and similar technology, the hope is that we will want to be surrounded by digital objects, which may be near or far away and will have to be comfortable to look at. This is what CEO Rony Abovitz is getting at when he suggests Magic Leap might replace all the other screens in our lives.

And what about shared screens like TVs? Yep, they’ve got that covered, too.

We’re still looking through the new patent apps, but if you see anything you think we should note in this space, drop me an email or DM me on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.