An Introduction To AR & VR Tech And Their Patent Potential

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The dawn of a future where human interactions and activities will be performed in a virtual space is not so distant. Aiding this revolutionary evolution are Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies. A recent survey has pegged the current market value for AR/VR/MR at around $30.7 billion and with an expected rise to $300 billion by 2024. That’s a massive yet absolutely possible jump considering the quickened pace of implementation and enhancements in virtual reality trends across the globe.  
Let us understand what these terms entail and their present and future impact on the world as well as the IP landscape. 

Table of Contents

About AR and VR 

Augmented Reality (AR) integrates the user’s real-time environment with digital visual elements and sounds.  It is a technology that offers an interactive experience by enhancing or adding to the existing features of the physical world. Retail store catalogs that allow users to visualize what the products would look like in different environments are an example of AR.  

Virtual Reality (VR) helps in creating a simulated 3D environment for the user. It is a truly immersive experience that creates a totally artificial environment to transpose the user. Non-immersive, semi-immersive, and fully immersive are the three types of virtual reality trends. Video games are an example of non-immersive tech while simulators constitute an example of semi-immersive VR. A completely immersive VR experience is not yet available in the public domain. 

Difference Between AR And VR 

To augment something means to make it greater by adding to it. That’s just what AR does. It provides a real-time direct or indirect view of reality that uses image processing to place computer generated objects in the scene. In VR, on the other hand, the user is placed inside a simulated environment that has been created artificially.  

The two technologies also differ based on their hardware. VR relies on special headsets powered by a phone or PC. To experience AR all you need is something as simple as a phone’s camera lens.  

Given the higher price tag of VR and lack of standardization, AR is the preferred tech being used by industries at present.  

Exciting Use Cases For AR And VR  

Both technologies have a widespread scope that cuts across industries. Some of the thrilling ways in which the tech will prove advantageous are: 

  1.  Product Development: The product designing process will gain immensely from the AR & VR tech which will make it possible to test prototypes at the inception stage itself. This will lead to shorter production time and fewer expenses on R&D. 
  2. Imparting Skills: With employees working remotely, companies are forced to adapt new systems of skill training. This is where VR can step in as an effective and affordable tool for training or upskilling. VR has also proved to be a much faster learning method as compared to regular classroom training. 
  3. Retail Shopping: Not just e-commerce but physical stores too will be impacted by AR/VR. The tech can be used to visualize and design stores that are more customer-friendly and also reduce staffing expenses. It will also enhance the customer experience as they can see the products in 3D and be more confident in making purchases.  
  4. Travel: Virtual tourism holds great potential in the near future. People who are unable to travel large distances will be able to experience a faraway place without leaving their homes. 
  5. Telemedicine: Medical students can enhance their training with the help of AR/VR simulations. It will help doctors to diagnose patients with greater precision than ever before. With body mapping and prognosis tech, more patients can be addressed by a single doctor.  
  6. Metaverse: The entire concept of the metaverse is facilitated by AR/VR technologies. The metaverse is the next iteration of the internet that will provide a single, immersive, 3D virtual world. It will make it possible for humans to socialize, work, shop and carry out other activities in the virtual world without having to step out.  

Top Companies in AR/VR 

At present VR gaming, VR video/feature viewing, and AR gaming are the areas with the maximum presence of these technologies. Tech giants like Microsoft, Apple, Sony Corporation, Samsung Electronics etc. dominate the field with huge investments in AR/VR and many AR patents. Other prominent names specializing in AR/VR are Magic Leap, Oculus, iTechArt, Unity, and VironIT among others.  

AR/VR Patent Prosecution 

With the expansion of AR/VR tech from entertainment to other sectors, there has been a renewed interest in patenting these technologies. The third quarter of 2021 saw 2735 AR patents and VR patents being issued globally. Of these, 780 were issued by the United States Patents & Trademark Office (USPTO), and 1213 by the Chinese Patent Office (SIPO). In the company ranking, Magic Leap secured 63 patents (maximum), followed by 39 for Microsoft, and 38 for Google & Meta platforms.  

Recently, Apple obtained three new patents for AR/VR for their invention of a head-mounted display, a temperature gradient sensor, and a smart ring sensor that uses these technologies. These patents will likely be implemented in future Apple products and offerings.  

Introduction To AR & VR Tech & Their Patent Potential

Challenges Faced By AR/VR 

  • These technologies collect a massive amount of personal data that needs to be monitored and protected. With privacy becoming a huge concern, securing data is a big challenge. 
  • The hardware required to support the technologies, especially VR needs to be fashionable, wearable and economical for the user. Several technical issues like display, connectivity, motion tracking, power and thermal issues etc. It will need to be fine-tuned before the products are launched for commercial use. 
  • As people are surrounded by screens at work and home, many are encountering digital fatigue and looking to take a break by retreating to the natural environment. The notion that technology is destroying personal relationships and space is catching up and could prove harmful for the tech. 

Conclusion

The potential of AR/VR to transform the way we interact with machinery, games, etc., is radical. The rush for patents is testimony to the impressive growth that these technologies are capable of. Businesses too are drawing up strategies to leverage the power of AR/VR by participating in the virtual reality trends to increase profits. Yes, there are multiple challenges that need to be addressed but as they say, it is the challenges that initiate innovation. A technology-driven future is upon us and it promises to enhance our living standards as we know them.  

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