Meet the Latest Data Miner: Your Windshield

Apple is seeking a patent for an augmented-reality windshield, according to documentation published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, May 2. In addition to displaying speed indicators alongside local speed limits, Apple says the windshield also provides three-dimensional icons representing portions of the road and environment ahead.

Filed in May 2021, part of Apple’s “visual content overlay system” includes a vehicle navigation system capable of controlling one or more elements of the vehicle. One such element, according to the patent, is the display of information on transparent surfaces, such as the windshield. Such information could include not only the vehicle’s speed but also the posted speed limit in the area through which the vehicle is traveling. That means Apple’s system not only recognizes elements in the environment but is capable of identifying them as well.

“The VNS can control a display of information to the occupant via a graphical overlay on the transparent surface which provides an augmented reality display of one or more portions of the environment perceived by the occupant …,” reads the application.

Apple says its technology is capable of generating and maintaining a “world model” of the environment outside the vehicle using a number of sensors located throughout the automobile. The model includes generated icons indicating components of the environment ahead, including static obstacles that may be hidden from the driver’s field of view.

The windshield may also be able to utilize more than sensors to generate that model.

“In some embodiments, the VNS generates and maintains a world model based at least in part upon information received from a remote service, system, device, etc., via one or more communication networks,” reads the application.

Furthermore, generated display elements on the windshield could come from one’s personal data. Apple says that lets the display of the environment be relevant to the vehicle occupant. The company also notes that users would have the option to block the use of personal data.

“For example, the display system can determine, based on processing sensor data representations, that content indicates a landmark which is a commonly-navigated destination associated with the personal data of the occupant,” reads the application.

According to the patent application, the windshield would incorporate spatial positioning with respect to the world model. For example, icons on the windshield would appear closer if a vehicle is traveling above the posted speed limit, and vice versa if the vehicle is traveling below the posted speed limit. Additionally, icons could appear elevated if the vehicle is traveling above the speed limit and at lower elevations if traveling below the speed limit. Should inclement weather, such as a rainstorm, impact the vehicle while it’s on the road, the technology would make suggestions for safe speeds.

“The special positioning of the graphical icon in the environment provided by the three-dimensional representation of the icon presented by the display element can provide the occupant with a visual cue with regards to the relative speed of the vehicle, thereby augmenting the occupant’s situational awareness …,” reads the application.

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