Magic Leap Patents Contact Lens to Marry Virtual, Real Worlds

Magic Leap, the Florida-based startup that’s worked in stealth mode since its 2010 founding, may be coming into focus with the information contained in 97 new patent applications. Google led a funding round of $542 million for the company, which has been working on a head-mounted virtual retinal display that composites 3D digital imagery over real world objects, not dissimilar from Microsoft’s HoloLens. Taking that idea to its logical conclusion, Magic Leap now has a patent for doing the same trick — but with contact lenses.

According to Re/code, Magic Leap’s other patents — which were published between August 20-27 — center on how to make those virtual objects blend naturally with their real environments. To do so requires manipulating light, which in the real world, bounces off objects and hits the eyes. Sunglasses “attenuate” the sunlight by selectively dimming certain wavelengths to make it easier to see in bright sunlight.

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Magic Leap hopes to replicate this attenuation specifically in the areas where it places computer-generated objects, to allow them to blend more naturally with the real environment.

Also of note is the discussion of how to display virtual objects in different focal planes. In the real world, our eyes focus differently on close and far objects; on the screen, everything is on a single plane.

Vergence accommodation refers to how our two eyes focus to see objects at different distances, converging to see close-up ones and diverging to see far-away ones. An environment — computer screens, for example — where all the objects are in focus all the time is fatiguing.

Chief executive Rony Abovitz, “suggests Magic Leap might replace all the other screens in our lives,” says Re/code, including shared screens like TVs. That intimates that, in some way, he hopes that his company can solve the problems inherent in mixing digital objects with a real world, including issues related to vergence.