Amazon Working on Augmented Reality for the Living Room

An Amazon patent outlining how to use computer projections to transform a room into a virtual setting that responds to the user’s senses.

An Amazon patent outlining how to use computer projections to transform a room into a virtual setting that responds to the user’s senses.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office
  • Company seeks lower-cost source for virtual projections
  • Patents reveal Amazon's ambitions beyond the Echo speaker

Amazon.com Inc. is trying to lower the cost of augmented reality to bring a technology normally associated with futuristic military training and video-game conventions to living rooms.

The Seattle-based company on Tuesday received two patents that outline a set of technologies that would project a digital world into someone’s room and let them navigate it by moving their bodies, or using some form of camera or headset to interact with it using virtual reality.

One patent for “object tracking in a 3-dimensional environment” would allow people to control devices through hand gestures that are monitored by cameras recognizing different parts of the hand. The technology attempts to solve the problem of tracking a user’s hand over time to control devices.

An Amazon patent outlining how to allow people to control devices through hand gestures.
An Amazon patent outlining how to allow people to control devices through hand gestures.
Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office

The other patent for “reflector-based depth mapping of a scene,” would use computer projections to transform a room into a virtual setting that responds to the user’s senses. The system would accomplish this with a single light source, differentiating it from existing technologies that rely on multiple light sources that have to be frequently re-calibrated, making them expensive, according to the patent.

Expanded Reach

The patents reveal Amazon’s hardware ambitions beyond its existing line of products, which include the voice-activated Echo speaker/personal assistant that can play music, deliver news and be synced with calendars. It can also control home lighting and heating systems. An Amazon representative couldn’t immediately be reached to comment on the patents.

Documents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office show Amazon is working with Rawles LLC of Wilmington, Delaware. Rawles has also applied for patents including for a tablet-sized sheet of transparent foam or plastic used to display information projected from unconnected devices that can be used for reading in the dark.

Inventors listed on the various patent applications all have a common connection in Amazon’s Lab126, the company’s Palo Alto, California-based research and development center, said Mikhail Avady, chief marketing officer with the legal technology firm SmartUp Legal, which monitors patent applications.

“This is all coming out of the same shop,” Avady said.

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